In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has ruled that if a government decided to make the state language a compulsory subject in the school syllabi, it cannot be said to be violative of the fundamental right of the minority community to establish and administer schools.
This ruling was given by a bench comprising Chief Justice S Rajendra Babu, Justice A R Lakshmanan and Justice G P Mathur while rejecting a petition saying imposition of Marathi as a subject in syllabi violated the fundamental right of minority community to set up and administer a school of their choice.
Justice Babu, writing for the bench, said it was settled that a state could impose reasonable regulations on institutions established and managed by minority community for protecting the larger interest of the State and the Nation.
Rejecting the stand of the Gujarati school, the court said the policy decision of the Maharashtra Government was taken by keeping the larger interest of the state because the official and common business was carried on in the state in Marathi language.
"Hence, the regulation imposed by the state of Maharashtra upon the linguistic minorities to teach its regional language is only a reasonable one," it said.
On the question of fundamental right of the minority groups, the bench said, "It is difficult to read Article 29 and 30 in such a way that it contains a negative right to exclude the learning of regional language."
Justice Babu said 'ipso facto' it was not possible to accept the proposition that the people living in a particular state could not be asked to study the regional language.
While observing that it was appropriate for the linguistic minority in a state to learn the regional language, the bench said, "In our view the resistance to learn the regional language will lead to alienation from mainstream of life resulting in linguistic fragmentation within the state, which is an anathema to national integration."
The learning of different languages would definitely bridge the cultural barriers and would positively contribute to the cultural integration of the country, the court felt.
"In our view, the policy decision of the Maharashtra Government is in the paramount interest of the students who are living in the state and also in the larger interest of the country," the bench said. "Therefore, we cannot rule that the impugned policy will result in destroying the minority character of the Gujarati community living in Maharashtra."