Karnataka to bring legislation for making Kannada mandatory in all sectors, penal action for violation

Activists have been demanding a legal framework providing teeth to existing rules and regulations aimed at giving primacy to the Kannada language in Karnataka and making it 'legally mandatory'

Press Trust of India September 18, 2022 10:32:01 IST
Karnataka to bring legislation for making Kannada mandatory in all sectors, penal action for violation

Karnataka Assembly. File image: News18

Bengaluru: Industrial establishments not giving priority to Kannadigas in jobs, as prescribed, will not be eligible for rebates, tax exemptions and incentives from the state as the Karnataka government moots wide-ranging measures for comprehensive development and promotion of Kannada at different levels.

Activists have been demanding for many years now a legal framework providing teeth to existing rules and regulations aimed at giving primacy to the Kannada language in Karnataka and making it “legally mandatory”.

In a major move to fulfil this long-standing demand, the Karnataka government is slated to introduce a bill during the ongoing monsoon session of the state legislature this week.

Making an announcement in this regard, amid protests and anger in some quarters against observing ‘Hindi Diwas’, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on 14 September had said that for the first time a legal framework is being given in the state, making Kannada mandatory, aimed at protecting the language and its users, and to grow it further.

The ‘Kannada Language Comprehensive Development Bill’, in addition to defining “Who is a Kannadiga”, has penal provisions for violations of rules.

To enforce Kannada as an official language, the bill proposes the Directorate of Kannada and Culture function as a “Language Enforcement Directorate”, with committees at the State, district, and taluk levels.

The State committee will have the Kannada Development Authority (KDA) Chairman and the Chief Secretary, among others.

The first draft of the bill was prepared by the KDA. However, the Karnataka Law Commission headed by Justice SR Bannurmath after holding discussions with officials and KDA Chairman, has prepared a new draft of the ‘Kannada Language Comprehensive Development Bill, 2022′.

Speaking to PTI, KDA Chairman TS Nagabarana said, this bill is important as it will give statutory backing to implement the primacy of the Kannada language, provide support to disseminate the language, and will give strength to Kannadigas.

“Orders regarding Kannada- in education, employment and implementation- are distributed among various departments, and whenever KDA was to implement those orders, it had to write to departments concerned, leading to lots of issues, and there were no clear laws or the strength of law, but this bill gives that,” he said.

Noting that the bill brings all things with regards to the Kannada language like education and development of future software programmes in Kannada and jobs to Kannadigas under one roof so that it can be monitored by KDA, he said, “there was only disciplinary action for violations so far, but now there is provision for penalty and filing an appeal in the court, by bringing in penalty clause.”

According to the draft bill, it is aimed at comprehensive development of the Kannada language and providing better opportunities for Kannadigas in education and jobs.

It defines Kannadiga as any person who must have lived in Karnataka for 15 years with knowledge of the Kannada language.

He or she must also possess any one of the following: a school certificate showing that Kannada was a subject.

The draft bill calls for the usage of Kannada as the official language for the presentation of all Bills in the legislature, for Ordinances to be promulgated by the Governor, and for all orders of the government and its organisations, industries, and cooperative societies.

It also proposes a translation of all legislation that came into existence in English (before this bill became law) into Kannada, translation of all official notifications, and usage of Kannada in all official and administrative transactions and letters.

The draft bill mandates the teaching of “functional Kannada language” to higher, technical, and professional education students, who have not learnt Kannada as a language till SSLC (class 10), and “cultural Kannada language” to students who have learnt Kannada.

It also provides for a reservation to students who have studied in Kannada medium from class 1 to 10 in higher, technical, and professional education.

Also passing in Kannada as a first or second language in class 10 is a must along with other specified qualifications for a government job,  or else one will have to take an equivalent Kannada test organised by the state public service commission.

The draft bill states lower courts, state tribunals and quasi-judicial bodies should transact proceedings and issue orders in Kannada but provides some provisions for the usage of the English language.

While mandating Kannada in programme brochures, and banners of government and its funded organisations, the draft bill says, it will have to be the main language in all name boards too.

It also says workshops should be held to teach Kannada to non-Kannada speakers in industrial establishments, and state or central government offices with more than 100 employees.

Noting that the priority should be on Kannadigas in industrial establishments as prescribed in the state’s industrial policy, it further says, if this is not followed, they will not be eligible for rebates, tax exemptions and incentives from the state.

The draft bill makes it clear that any lapse or negligence on part of an officer to implement the official language will be considered a dereliction of duty and will be subjected to disciplinary action.

If any shopkeeper or commercial establishment is involved in any violation like showing disregard for giving primacy to Kannada in name boards, he will be subjected to a penalty of up to Rs 5,000 for the first offence and up to Rs 10,000 for the second offence. Later, the offender is liable for a fine up to Rs 20,000, after issuing notice, besides there is also provision for cancellation of licence.

Asserting that Kannada is supreme in the State, CM Bommai has said that this is for the first time legislation is being made to make Kannada compulsory in the state, with legal backing.

“Till now there had been only slogans- Kannada is compulsory. There were several committees and authorities for it, but there was no legal framework. For the first time, we are bringing in a law which will protect the Kannada language, Kannada people,” he has said, adding that to increase the usage of Kannada, it will be emphasised that people of other languages living in the state, learn Kannada.

This move by the ruling BJP is also being seen by some opposition leaders from a political prism, as they feel that it is aimed at derailing the narrative that the party is keen on promoting only Hindi, ahead of assembly polls in the state next year.

In response to a question, Nagabharana, who is a noted film director and recipient of national awards, said the bill has been prepared keeping Kerala’s Malayalam Language (Dissemination and Enrichment) Act, as a reference.

“Actually Karnataka was the first to make orders with respect to the Kannada language, we have about 160 orders.. we also have Kannada Language Learning Act, Karnataka Official Language Act and  Karnataka Local Authorities (Official Language) Act, now all the provisions of these acts will come under the new act, and hence these acts will be superseded by the new act once it comes into force,” he said.

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