Decided on February 15,1954


Referred Judgements :-



Chagla, C.J. - (1.)These three petitions raise very important questions, first, as to the right of an Anelo-Indian school to admit non-Anglo-Indian students, and second, the right of non-Anglo-Indian students to be admitted to an Anglo-Indian school. The school with which we are concerned is the Barnes School which was founded in 1925. In December 1953 it had on its roll 415 students of whom 203 were non-Anglo- Indians and 212 were Anglo-Indians. It appears that in the whole State of Bombay there are 30 Anglo-Indian schools and the percentage of non-Anglo-Indian students studying in these schools Is 63 per cent, and the percentage of Anglo- Indian students studying in these schools'is 37 per cent. It may also be mentioned that in the whole State of Bombay there are in all 1403 schools out of which 1285 teach through mediums other than English and 118 teach through the medium of English, As far as this school is concerned it has got 17 teachers of whom only one teacher is in a position to teach through the medium of Hindi and he takes up Hindi classes and teaches the students Hindi. On 6-1-1954, the Government of Bombay issued an order which is challenged in these petitions. The circular points out that Government has been considering the question of the medium of instruction at primary and secondary stages of education, and it has been constantly the desire of Government to further the cause of education by making it possible for all students to study through the medium of their mother tongue. The circular also points out that the whole position was reviewed in 1951 and a general policy was laid down that admission to schools which teach through the medium of English should be restricted to certain categories of children, and the four categories are set out in this circular, and the important category to bear in mind is the category of children whose mother tongue was certified by the parent or guardian to be English. The other categories do not directly arise for consideration in this petition. They deal with students who were previously studying with English as the medium of instruction or who had no facilities for receiving instruction in their mother tongue or whose parents or guardians were liable to inter-State or inter-regional transfer. The circular also points out the recommendations for Secondary Education Commission recently appointed and the recommendation on which emphasis is laid by the circular is that the mother tongue or regional language should generally be the medium of instruction throughout the secondary stage. Having emphasised the historical background, in CI. (4) of the circular it is stated that
"The Government therefore feels that the stage has now been reached for the discontinuance of English as the medium of instruction in primary and secondary schools. Government has therefore decided that subject to the facilities to be given to linguistic minorities, all special and interim concessions in respect of admission to schools using English as the medium of instruction should hereafter be withdrawn."

(2.)Clause 5 is to the following effect: "Government has accordingly decided as follows: subject to the exceptions hereinafter provided no primary or secondary school shall from the date of these orders admit to a class where English is used as a medium of instruction any pupil other than a pupil belonging to a section of citizens the language of which is English, namely, Anglo-Indians and citizens of non-Asiatic descent." Then three exceptions are set out with which we are not concerned. Then we come to CI. (7):
"All schools (including Anglo-Indian Schools) using English as a medium of instruction should regulate admissions according to this circular. With a view to facilitating the admission of pupils who under these orders are not intended to be educated through the medium of English, these schools are advised to open progressively divisions of standards using Hindi or an Indian language as the medium of instruction, starting from Std. I in 1954. Government will be pre pared to consider the payment of additional grant on merits for this purpose."

(3.)Now let us consider what is the effect of this circular upon the rights of Anglo- Indian schools teaching through the medium of English and upon the rights of those citizens who want their children to be educated through the medium of English. It is clear that the circular prohibits the Barnes School, with which we are concerned on these petitions, from admitting any pupil other than an Anglo-Indian or a person of non-Asiatic descent. The Government Have made up their mind that the only section of citizens in this country whose language is English is the Anglo- Indian community and citizens who are not of Asiatic descent. We are not concerned with foreigners or persons who are of non-Asiatic descent for the purpose of this petition. But as far as Indian communities are concerned, the clear view taken in this circular is that the only section of Indians whose mother tongue is English is the Anglo-Indian community, and therefore no Indian other than a person belonging to the Anglo-Indian community can be admitted into the school. Now, it would be noticed that the circular clearly prohibits any citizen who does not happen to be an Anglo-Indian and therefore does not belong to a section of citizens whose language is English, but whose own personal mother tongue may be English, from being admitted to this Anglo-Indian school. In understanding and appreciating this circular it must be clearly borne in mind that although a section of the people of India may have a particular language, a member of that section may have a mother tongue different from the language of the section. This view was clearly accepted by Government itself, because, as already pointed out, in 1951 they allowed children to be adimitted to Anglo-Indian schools whose mother tongue was certified by the parent or guardian to be English. Therefore, Government clearly took into consideration the possibility that there may be Indians in the State of Bombay who were not Anglo-Indians & yet the mother tongue of whose children might be English, and such children were allowed to be admitted into Anglo-Indian schools. We have been given by the Advocate General the recent census figures which are rather striking. The official census report as far as the State of Bombay is concerned states that there are 47,387 persons speaking English as their mother tongue in the State of Bombay. Of these 35,439 were in Greater Bombay, 4,591 in Poona and 2,151 in Thana. We have been told by Mr. Palkhivala who appears for the petitioners that at the highest in the state of Bombay there could not be more than 25,000 .Anglo-Indians. Therefore, the census report makes it clear that in the State of Bombay there are at least 22,000 Indians who are not Anglo-Indians and whose mother tongue is English. Now, mother tongue is the language which a child studies and speaks and understands and appreciates from his cradle. Normally, it is the language, which his ancestors spoke. But there may be cases due to various reasons where either due to migration or some other cause the parents may adopt another language and if the child from his choldhood hears a language other than the language of his ancestors, as far as he is concerned it becomes his mother tongue. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that the mother tongue of a child is the language of the linguistic group to which he belongs. Undoubtedly, in majority of cases it would be so, but there may be exceptions, and the test to apply to determine what is a mother tongue is not to inquire what is the linguistic group to which the child belongs, but to inquire what is the language of his home, what is the language of his environment and what is the language which he is accustomed to from his infancy.

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