The Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh high court reserved its order on a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the decision of National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) that asks writers to declare that their books will not be against India and nation.
The division bench comprising justices PK Jaiswal and Vivek Rusia heard the petition on Thursday.
The PIL alleged that the decision by NCPUL, run under the human resources development ministry, is violation of basic features of the Constitution of India.
City-based social activist Tapan Bhattacharya challenged the decision holding it as violation of fundamental rights under Article 19 (Freedom of speech and expression) and Article 351 of the Constitution.
Petitioner’s counsel senior advocate Anand Mohan Mathur said, “The Government of India has selected Urdu because it is a language of Muslim minority. This is clear discrimination violating Article 14 because no such conditions have been imposed on literature published in 21 other languages enshrined under the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.”
Article 351 says that the forms, style and expression of Hindustani and other languages of India specified in Eighth Schedule shall not be interfered. Hindustani is a mixture of Urdu, Hindi and other languages.
The counsel said, “The decision violates Article 15 which says that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.”
He said the BJP-led central government had gagged the freedom of writing in Urdu. “This has not happened even during the British Raj. This is nothing but saffronising and politicisation against Urdu literature and language,” he said.
The form introduced by the NCPUL requires Urdu authors to provide signatures of two witnesses. The council provides monetary assistance to books and magazines, which are approved for bulk purchase.
“The circular is nothing but a carrot-stick approach to suppress the freedom of speech and expression of Urdu writers, which is condemnable and deserves to be quashed,” said Mathur.