The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s order striking down the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government’s decision to make English the medium of education for government school students from Classes I to VI beginning 2020-21 academic year.
Heading a three-judge bench, Justice D Y Chandrachud pointed out that Section 29(2)(f) of the Right to Education (RTE) Act says that the medium of instruction shall, as far as practicable, be in a child’s mother tongue. “It seems the High Court has taken this into account,” he said.
Though it orally declined to grant an immediate stay on Thursday, the court said in its order that “the prayer for interim relief (stay) shall be considered after the caveators have an opportunity to file a response”.
The bench, however, issued a notice to the petitioner on the state government’s plea challenging the HC’s April 15 order.
Appearing for the state, senior advocate K V Viswanathan made a fervent plea to stay the HC order and said the government’s decision is a “progressive measure”. He said the RTE Act does not bar English medium instruction in schools, and there is no restraint on private schools or minority institutions from having Telugu medium.
“I come from a small town… If there was no English medium I would not be able to address this court,” Viswanathan said.
“India is a wonderful country with diversity. Without English, we will be in islands,” Viswanathan remarked. He said it would cause “irreversible damage” if the decision cannot be carried forward, as future generations will not be able to speak English fluently.
He said Telugu will still be taught in schools as a language and bilingual texts are ready.
Opposing the contentions, senior advocate Gopal Sankarnarayanan, who appeared for a party who has filed a caveat application, said the question is one of choice of parents. He said the government had taken away the choice of Telugu-speaking people to send their children to a Telugu medium school.
“Minority schools and private schools can teach both languages, but government schools will only impart lessons in English language. This is an absurd situation,” Sankarnarayanan said.
The court will now hear the matter on September 25.
The AP High Court has held that the state government’s decision was unconstitutional and violated laws such as the RTE Act.
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