India/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.9 Language laws

The promotion of regional languages is left to the respective states in India. The Constitution of India recognises the close link between language and culture and the need to protect the same through education. Some judgements of the Supreme Court of India are listed below.

The Prasar Bharati Corporation, the main public broadcaster of the country, under Section 12 of the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990, is expected to:

  • provide adequate coverage to the diverse cultures and languages of the various regions of the country by broadcasting appropriate programmes; and,
  • promote national integration by broadcasting in a manner that facilitates communication in the languages in India; and facilitating the distribution of regional broadcasting services in every State in the languages of that State.

Key Supreme Court cases dealing with language rights

i. Kerala Education Bill In re, AIR 1958 SC 956: ‘The distinct language, script or culture of a minority community can best be conserved by and through educational institutions, for it is by education that their culture can be inculcated into the impressionable minds of the children of their community.’

ii. Jagdev Singh Sidhanti v. Pratap Singh Daulta, AIR 1965 SC 183: ‘This case assumes from Article 29(1), the right to conserve language and what methods can be used to conserve language. Right to conserve the language of the citizen includes the right to agitate for the protection of the language.’

iii. D. A. V. College Bhatinda v. State of Punjab, AIR 1971 SC 1731:‘The right of the minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice would include the right to have a choice of the medium of instruction also which would be result of reading Article 30(1) with Article 29(1).’

iv. D A V College Jullundur v. State of Punjab, AIR 1971 SC 1737:‘The Supreme Court held that the setting up of Guru Nanak Dev University at Amritsar to promote inter alia the studies and research in Punjabi language and literature and to undertake measures for the development of Punjabi Language and culture did not infringe Article 29(1).’

v. Ahmedabad St. Xaviers College Society v. State of Gujarat, AIR 1874 SC 1389: ‘Article 29 and 30 confer four distinct rights. First is the right of any section of resident citizens to conserve its own language, script or culture as mentioned in Article 29(1).’

iv. Virendra Nath Gupta v. Delhi Administration, 1996, 2 SCC 307: ‘In exercising their right a linguistic minority may take steps for the purpose of promoting its language, script or culture.’

Chapter published: 22-04-2014