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5 May 2017

SC snubs appeal to make Hindi a compulsory school subject across India

R. Balaji, TT, New Delhi, May 4:  The Supreme Court today declined to entertain a BJP activist's plea to make Hindi a compulsory subject across India from Classes I to VIII, saying he better approach the Central government as his party was in power.
"It's quite surprising; why have you come to court with this demand? You say you are a BJP man, why don't you approach the government? Because it is your party which is in power," Chief Justice J.S. Khehar told petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, an advocate who claims to be a Delhi BJP spokesperson.
Hindi is now compulsory till Class VIII in Central Board of Secondary Education schools virtually everywhere in India, as in state board schools in the Hindi-speaking states.
President Pranab Mukherjee last month endorsed a proposal to make Hindi compulsory up to Class X in CBSE schools but rejected a suggestion for mandatory Hindi teaching in state board schools outside the Hindi belt.
Supreme Court Bar Association president R.S. Suri, appearing for the petitioner, pleaded that the court consider the plea as it involved a constitutional obligation.
"What constitutional obligation are you talking about? Where is the constitutional obligation?" Justice Khehar asked.
"Look, the court cannot interfere in such policy matters. Today you are asking for Hindi; tomorrow somebody will come to court and ask for making Sanskrit mandatory, or somebody will say make Marathi, Kannada...."
Justice Khehar then told Suri, a fellow Sikh, in a lighter vein: "You and me would ask for Punjabi!"
Suri laughed but pleaded that he be permitted to withdraw the petition, with a direction that the Centre should consider the plea.
But the bench, which included Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, refused to pass any direction to the government. "You withdraw the petition or we will pass order (dismissing the petition)," it said.
The petition was then withdrawn.
Upadhyay had argued that India's being known as "Hindustan" implied that most Indians spoke Hindi, and that making the language compulsory between Class I and Class VIII would "promote fraternity, unity and national integration".
However, Tamil Nadu had witnessed a violent agitation in the 1960s against the imposition of Hindi.
"Hindi is referred to as the nation's collective voice because of its wide use by the great Indian freedom fighters," the petition said.
"It is not out of context to state that the then President of the USA, Mr George Bush, had allocated a budget of $114 million to promote Hindi."

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