Petition challenging the declaration of Telugu, Odiya, Kannada and Malayalam as ‘classical language’, dismissed

Madras High Court: While deciding upon the challenge to the grant of ‘Classical’ status to languages like Telugu, Kannada, Odiya, Malayalam etc., the Division Bench of S.K. Kaul, C.J., and R. Mahadevan, J., refused to interfere with the declaration of granting ‘classical’ status to the aforementioned languages stating that the Court will not convert itself into a forum to decide such issues.

The Central Government took a policy decision to confer the status of ‘classical’ to some eminent languages on certain grounds namely; antiquity, a valuable body of ancient literature, original literary tradition and a distinction between the classical language and literature with that of its modern offshoots. The petitioner appearing for himself, contended before the Court that except Tamil and Sanskrit, none of the aforementioned languages meet the criteria laid down by the Government. As per the petitioner, Tamil has a vintage literature of around 1500 years. The respondent represented by G. Rajagopalan, put forth before the Court that the question that whether the aforementioned languages have rightly earned the status of ‘classical language’ must be decided by the Committee of Linguistic Experts and not the Court.

Perusing the contentions, the Bench agreed with the respondents that it is for the experts to verify whether the languages satisfy the norms laid down by the Government or not and the Court can only scrutinize that whether the test laid down by the Government was followed or not while declaring a language to be classical. Refusing to accept the pleas of the petitioner, the Court observed that the Court cannot go into the details of the opinions and findings of the expert body which confers the status of classical language. The Court further stated that declaration of a language as ‘classical’ is more about providing financial assistance to protect and enhance the growth of the language. Declining to agree with the petitioner’s contention that the prominence of Tamil will be lost in the light of the declaration, the Court observed that, “prominence of a language does not depend on the development or fall of other language, rather, the growth and importance can be attributed only to usage of the language and creative contribution in the forms of arts and literature.” [R. Gandhi v. The Secretary to the Government2016 SCC OnLine Mad 8898,  decided on 08.08.2016]

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