The Gujarat High Court has said schools affiliated to other boards like CBSE and ICSE cannot refuse to implement a state government policy of teaching Gujarati language as one of the mandatory subjects in Classes I to VIII.
While hearing a public interest litigation on Friday on the implementation of the policy that was introduced in April 2018 by the Gujarat government, Justice Sonia Gokani said the HC will issue necessary directions if the government “feels helpless" to compel schools.
The PIL was filed in October this year by NGO ‘Matrubhasha Abhiyan’ seeking the HC’s direction to the state government “to ensure the Government Resolution of 2018 is implemented in its true letter and spirit so as to introduce Gujarati language as one of the mandatory subjects in primary schools from Standard 1 to 8".
The petitioner had said primary schools, especially those affiliated with CBSE, ICSE and IB boards, were not offering Gujarati as a subject in the curriculum despite there being a policy in place.
During a brief hearing on Friday, advocate Archit Jani, appearing for the NGO, informed the bench of Justice Sonia Gokani and Justice Mauna Bhatt that, as per an RTI query, websites of 15 schools informed Gujarati was not part of their curriculum.
“They (schools) are not teaching Gujarati at all. And, there are no consequences (for not following the government policy). Their (government’s) affidavit does not clearly say what action the government will take against such schools," said Jani.
The state government, in response, said it was collecting data from all districts to find out about non-complying schools.
When a government pleader sought to convey that the issue has come up mainly because schools affiliated with other boards, such as CBSE, “have their own curriculum", Justice Gokani said such schools or boards cannot refuse to implement the policy on Gujarati.
“Don’t feel helpless. Because you are the state and it is your policy. And, it is meant to preserve something which all of us know needs to be preserved and all states are doing this by making statutory provisions for it," Justice Gokani said.
“You (government) need to make it clear to them (schools) that they have to implement this policy. Otherwise, what consequences will follow is up to you to decide. Boards can have their own curriculum but they can’t say no to this policy. If they need to operate in Gujarat, they will have to do that," she said.
On the need to have consequences for those who are not willing to follow the policy, Justice Gokani said “This is a policy and you have asked them to follow it. What will happen to them if they do not follow? We always say there is no love without fear. Without deterrence, no one is going to implement it".
Justice Gokani added “if someone is flagrantly violating your policy, then there must be come command".
The HC bench kept the matter for further hearing on December 22 as the state government sought time to collect data about compliance from all districts.
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