Kumar Vs. Secy., Min. of Human Resources Development  INSC 508 (4 October 1994)
B.L. (J) Hansaria B.L. (J) Kuldip Singh (J)
1995 AIR 293 1994 SCC (6) 579 JT 1994 (6) 454 1994 SCALE (4)391
Judgment of the Court was delivered by B.L. HANSARIA, J.- A professor of Cambridge University is deeply engrossed in his studies in his calm chamber. An
agitated English soldier enters the study room and accuses the professor of not
sharing the trauma of war which he and many others like him are facing while
fighting Germans. The professor calmly asks the young soldier for whom he is
fighting. Quick comes the reply that it is to defend the country. The wise man
wants to know what is that country to defend which he is prepared to shed his
blood. The soldier replies it is the territory and its people. On further
questioning the soldier says it is not only this but the culture of the country
which he wants to defend. The professor quietly states that he is contributing to
that culture. The soldier calms down and bows in respect to the professor and
vows to defend with more vigour the cultural heritage of his country.
This is what is said to have happened during the Second World War when England
was fighting almost a last ditch battle of survival and all Englishmen
contributed in their own way to the ultimate victory of England.
above shows the concern for Culture evinced even by the Westerners. So far as
"We, the people of India" are concerned, they have
always held in high esteem the cultural heritage of this ancient land. And to
foretell our views, learning of Sanskrit is undoubtedly necessary for
protection of this heritage. The stream of our culture would get dried if we
were to discourage the study of Sanskrit, and that too on the most untenable
581 ground that if the Central Board of Secondary Education (for short 'the
Board') were to do so, it would have to make facilities available for learning
of Arabic and Persian - these being also classical languages, which is the
ground advanced by Additional Solicitor General, Shri Tulsi, appearing for the
Board, in it not being in a position to accept the prima facie view expressed
by us on 19-7-1994, when these cases had come up for hearing, that Sanskrit
should be included by the Board as one of the elective subjects in the syllabus
along with Assamese, Bengali, etc., which are the languages specified in the
Eighth Schedule of our Constitution, mentioning about Sanskrit being also an
Eighth Schedule language. The desire to keep Sanskrit out does not stop here,
as the submission also is that if Sanskrit comes, the Board shall have to bring
in languages like French and German. This is not all, as it is contended by the
Additional Solicitor General that the Board feels that arrangement may have
then to be made for imparting education even in Lepcha, a language whose name
many of the Indians might not have even heard.
fail to appreciate at all the stand taken by a responsible body like the Board,
which has been entrusted with the onerous duty of educating the youth of this
country "in whose hands quiver the destinies of the future", as the
same is wholly untenable. Without the learning of Sanskrit it is not possible
to decipher the Indian philosophy on which our culture and heritage are based.
question raised being important requires us, to answer it appropriately, to
first know what our policy- makers have said about the importance of Sanskrit.
We shall then apprise ourselves about the place of Sanskrit in our educational
ethos and shall finally see whether teaching of Sanskrit is against secularism?
Our education policy qua Sanskrit
Being called upon to decide whether Sanskrit is required to be included in the
syllabus of the Board as an elective subject so far as teaching in secondary
school is concerned, may we say at the threshold a few words on the importance
of education as such. This point is not required to be laboured by us in view
of the Constitution Bench decision of this Court in Unni Krishnan case1 in
which the majority Judges well brought home the importance of education. It
would be enough to mention what Mohan, J. (as a majority Judge) stated in that
judgment. According to the learned Judge, education is a preparation of living
and for life here and hereafter and education is at once a social and political
necessity. It was also observed that victories are gained, peace is preserved,
progress is achieved, civilisation is built up and history is made, not in the
battlefields but in educational institutions which are seed- beds of culture.
Education was, therefore, regarded as enlightenment and one that lends dignity
to a man.
Krishnan, J. P. v. State of A. P, (1993) 1 SCC 645 582 7.As we are concerned in
these cases with the teaching in the secondary schools, we may say something
about the importance of education in its early stages. It has been well recognised
that it is this education which lays the foundation for a full and intense life
and so this education must carefully keep alive the spark of curiosity and fan
it into a beautiful, bright flame whenever it comes. It has been stated that it
is the education received in early stages which widens the contacts of child or
youth with the surroundings of the world; and with every new and fruitful
contact with the world of things, the world of men and the world of ideas, life
of the young becomes richer and broader. It is early education which seeks to
broaden the mind by exposing the learner to the world of thought and
reflection, which can inspire him with lofty idealism by giving him the
glimpses of a good life which a worthy education is capable of bringing.
may now advert to the broad framework of our education policy as accepted by
the Central Government. For our purpose it would be enough if we refer to the
policies as formulated in 1968 and 1986. Here again, we would confine our
attention to what was stated in these policies regarding Sanskrit. In the 1968
policy the following found place qua this language:
the special importance of Sanskrit to the growth and development of Indian
languages and its unique contribution to the cultural unity of the country,
facilities for its teaching at the school and university stages should be
offered on more liberal basis. Development of new methods of teaching the
language should be encouraged, and the possibility explored of including the
study of Sanskrit in those courses (such as modern Indian philosophy) at the
first and second degree stages, where such knowledge is useful."
1986 policy has to say as below in this regard in para 5.33:
in Indology, the Humanities and Social Sciences will receive adequate support.
the need for the synthesis of knowledge, inter-disciplinary research will be
encouraged. Efforts will be made to delve into India's ancient fund of knowledge and to relate it to
contemporary reality. This effort will imply the development of facilities for
the intensive study of Sanskrit." (emphasis supplied) 10.It would be of
some interest to note that when Sir William Jones, one of the most brilliant
men of 18th century, came to India in 1783 as a Judge of the then Supreme Court
of Judicature at Fort Williams in Bengal, he got interested to learn Sanskrit
and it grew so strong that within six years he not only became the master of
the language but translated Kalidas's Shakuntala. After about two hundred years
it has fallen to the Judges of the present Supreme Court to highlight the
importance of Sanskrit and to see that it finds its due place in the niche of
our national life.
of Sanskrit in our educational ethos
is well known that Sanskrit is a mother of all Indo- Aryan languages and it is
this language in which our Vedas, Puranas and Upanishads have been written and
in which Kalidas, Bhavbuti, Banabhatta 583 and Dandi wrote their classics.
Teachings of Shankaracharya, Ramanuja, Madhawacharya, Nimbark and Vallabhacharya
would not have been woven into the fabric of Indian culture if Sanskrit would
not have been available to them as a medium of expressing their thoughts.
report of the Sanskrit Commission (set up by the Government of India) which was
submitted in 1957 speaks eloquently about the importance of Sanskrit. We do not
propose to burden this judgment with all that was said by the Commission in
this regard. It would be enough for our purpose if we take note of some
passages finding place in the report which highlight the quality, substance,
content and strength of Sanskrit. At page 71 of the report it has been mentioned
that Sanskrit is one of the greatest languages of the world and it is a
classical language par excellence not only of India but of a good part of Asia
as well. At page 73 the report states that the Indian people and the Indian civilisation
were born, so to say, in the lap of Sanskrit and it went "hand in hand
with the historical development of the Indian people, and gave the noblest
expression to their mind and culture which has come down to our day as an
inheritance of priceless order for India, nay, for the entire world". The
report further speaks at page 74 about the "great mental and spiritual
link" of Sanskrit and of it being the elder sister of Greek and Latin, and
cousin of English, French and Russian.
is no need to dilate on the importance of Sanskrit further in our national
ethos in view of what was stated by no less a person than the first Prime
Minister of the country, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in this regard, which is as
I was asked what is the greatest treasure which India possesses and what is her finest heritage, I would answer
unhesitatingly - it is the Sanskrit language and literature, and all that it
contains. This is a magnificent inheritance, and so long as this endures and
influences the life of our people, so long the basic genius of India will continue." Is teaching of
Sanskrit against secularism?
the three objections mentioned by the Additional Solicitor General regarding
the inability of the Board in acting in accordance with the prima facie views
expressed by us in our order dated 19-7-1994, the only objection which merits
our close look is that if Sanskrit were to be included as an elective subject,
Arabic and Persian shall also have to be so done. The two other objections,
namely inclusion of French and German also in the syllabus and of language like
Lepcha do not deserve any consideration for obvious reasons.
The first objection needs our consideration because in some quarter there may
be a feeling that by conceding to Sanskrit alone as an elective subject, we
would act against secularism, which has been accepted by a nine-Judge Bench of
this Court in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India2 as a basic structure of our
Constitution. It is apparent that we cannot give any direction 2 (1994) 3 SCC 1
584 about which it can be said that it is against the secularist requirement of
For the disposal of the cases at hand it is not necessary to elaborately
discuss what are the basic requirements of secularism inasmuch as in Bommai
case2 this exercise has been well done by the learned Judges. It would be
enough for our purpose to note what some of the learned Judges said in this
regard. Sawant, J., with whom one of us (Kuldip Singh, J.) agreed, quoted in para
147 of the report what Shri M.C. Setalvad had stated on secularism in his Patel
Memorial Lectures, 1965. One of the observations made by Setalvad was that a
secular State is not hostile to religion but holds itself neutral in matters of
further observation in para 148 is that the State's tolerance of religion does
not make it either a religious or a theocratic State. Ramaswami, J. stated in para
179 that secularism represents faiths born out of the exercise of rational
faculties and it enables to see the imperative requirements for human progress
in all aspects and cultural and social advancement and indeed for human
would be profitable to note that according to Justice H.R. Khanna secularism is
neither anti-God nor pro-God; it treats alike the devout, the agnostic and the
to him, secularism is not antithesis of religious devoutness. He would like to
dispel the impression that if a person is devout Hindu or devout Muslim he
ceases to be secular. This is illustrated by saying that Vivekananda and Gandhiji
were the greatest Hindus yet their entire life and teachings embodied the
essence of secularism. (See his article "The Spirit of Secularism" as
printed in Secularism and India:
Dilemmas and Challenges edited by Shri M.M. Sanklidhar.) 18.We also propose to
refer to what was said by the Sanskrit Commission on the subject of
"Sanskrit and National Solidarity" in Chapter IV of its report. The
Commission has, in this context first stated that Sanskrit is the
"embodiment of Indian culture and civilisation". It then observes
that the Indian people look upon Sanskrit as the binding force for the
different peoples of this great country, which was described as the greatest
discovery which the Commission made as it travelled from Kerala to Kashmir and from Kamarupa to Saurashtra.
The Commission, while so travelling, found that though the people of this
country differed in a number of ways, they all were proud to regard themselves
as participants in a common heritage; and that heritage emphatically is the
heritage of Sanskrit.
to the Commission one of the witnesses who appeared before it went to the
length of suggesting that if the Sanskrit Commission had come before the States
Reorganisation Commission, many of the recent bickerings in our national life
could have been avoided. (pages 80 and 81)
From what has been stated above, we entertain no doubt in our mind that
teaching of Sanskrit alone as an elective subject can in no way be regarded as
our Constitution requires giving of fillip to Sanskrit because of what has been
stated in Article 351, in which while dealing with the duty of the Union to
promote the spread of Hindi, it 585 has been provided that it would draw,
whenever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit.
to Sanskrit is also necessary because of it being one of the languages included
in the Eighth Schedule.
We, therefore, conclude by saying that in view of importance of Sanskrit for
nurturing our cultural heritage, because of which even the official education
policy has highlighted the need of study of Sanskrit, making of Sanskrit alone
as an elective subject, while not conceding this status to Arabic and/or
Persian, would not in any way militate against the basic tenet of secularism.
There is thus no merit in the first objection raised by the Board.
the aforesaid premises, we direct the Board to include Sanskrit as an elective
subject in the syllabus under consideration. Necessary amendment in the
syllabus shall be made within a period of three months from today.
The writ petitions are allowed accordingly. No order as to costs.