"State has no power to compel linguistic minority to impart primary education by compulsorily imposing regional language," a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said.
The bench, also comprising justices A K Patnaik, S J Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and F M I Kalifulla, was hearing the issue which had come before the apex court as two Karnataka government orders of 1994 making mother tongue or regional language compulsory for imparting education from class I to IV, had come under challenge.
In July last year, a two-judge bench of the apex court had said its Constitution Bench will examine whether government can impose mother tongue or regional language as the medium of instruction at the primary education stage as it has a far-reaching significance on the development of children.
The court, which was of the opinion that it was a fit case for consideration by a larger bench, had said that the issue involved in this case concerns the fundamental rights of not only the present generation but also the generations yet to be born.
It had said that the issue had to be referred to a larger bench as a two-judge bench of the court in 1993 had refused to interfere with a Karnataka government order specifying mother tongue Kannada as the medium of instruction at the primary school level and making it mandatory for every child.