NEW DELHI—Promoting India’s 22 regional languages is among the key assurances of the Narendra Modi government’s new National Education Policy 2020. Yet, just a week prior to announcing this policy, the government’s environment ministry told the Karnataka High Court that it was against conducting public consultation in these languages for a proposed new law for environment clearance.
The Prakash Javadekar-led ministry had been directed to conduct public consultation for the proposed law in the 22 regional languages, called eight schedule languages, by the Delhi High Court on June 30 in a judgment.
Weeks later, while responding to an order by the Karnataka High Court which is also in favour of conducting public consultation in regional languages for the proposed law, the environment ministry filed a written ‘statement of objections’ against what the two high courts had asked it to do. Through this statement, the environment ministry not only went back on its earlier position in favour of conducting public consultation in regional languages, it also disclosed that it had appealed against the Delhi High Court judgment in the Supreme Court.
This statement revealed the specific legal grounds cited by the environment ministry in its Supreme Court appeal, thereby showing how stridently opposed it is to the idea of conducting public consultation in regional languages.
One of the grounds for not translating the new draft law in regional languages, the ministry claimed in the statement, is that it would “create a big hurdle for the Union of India to perform its normal legislative and administrative function on account of inherent procedural and administrative difficulties” involved in translation. It did not explain what this meant.
A closer look at the other grounds in the Supreme Court appeal show a strong preference of the ministry to conduct public consultation for the proposed national law only in Hindi and English despite orders from both the Karnataka...