Bill mandating 60% Kannada on sign boards passed in Karnataka Assembly

Non-compliance would lead to cancellation of the licences of businesses, the government asserted in the House.


Published Feb 15, 2024 | 6:41 PMUpdatedFeb 15, 2024 | 6:41 PM

Karnataka Assembly session on Monday, 3 July 2023. (Supplied)

A Bill mandating that Kannada displays of businesses and establishments must occupy 60 percent of the space on signboards was passed by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly on Thursday, 15 February.

Non-compliance would lead to cancellation of the licences of businesses, the government asserted in the House.

The Kannada Language Comprehensive Development (Amendment) Bill, 2024, amends the 2022 Act.

The amendment makes a provision to ensure that commercial, industrial and business undertakings, trusts, counselling centres, hospitals, laboratories, amusement centres and hotels, among others functioning with the approval and sanction of the government or local authorities, display information in Kannada language on 60 percent of the space on name boards.

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The Bill

Information in Kannada shall be displayed in the upper half of the sign board, the Bill said in its statement of objects and reasons.

Moving the Bill for the consideration of the house, Kannada and Culture Minister Shivaraj Tangadagi said the government is framing rules to enforce the law.

“In the rules, we will provide for cancellation of licences. Only when licences are cancelled will businesses and establishments feel the pinch. At the time of issuing fresh licences or renewing existing licences, we will first ensure that they have complied with the rules on using Kannada in (name) boards,” Tangadagi said.

He also assured the legislators, especially from the Opposition BJP, that the government would also insert rules on the imposition of fines for violations.

The minister further said that the government would form task forces apart from an enforcement wing comprising police personnel, in every district to ensure compliance.

He said the problem of Kannada not being used on name boards exists only in Bengaluru.

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To form committees

In Bengaluru, the government will form committees in all eight municipal zones; “these committees will receive complaints on Kannada. We are also coming out with an app called ‘Kangavalu’ for this,” he added.

The Karnataka Cabinet on 5 January gave its approval to an ordinance to amend the Kannada Language Comprehensive Development Act that mandates the use of the state’s language in 60 percent space on signages.

As of now, the law requires the use of Kannada language in the upper half of signboards, displaying the names of businesses.

The government had decided to take the ordinance route to speed things up in the wake of violent protests by pro-Kannada organisations targeting some businesses and establishments in Bengaluru for not giving prominence to Kannada.

However, late last month, Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot returned the ordinance to the state government with the advice to present it as a bill before both houses of the state legislature for approval, since the notification for summoning both houses for sessions had already been issued.

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The discussion

The Bill also amends the act to appoint the Director of the Directorate of Kannada and Culture as the Member, and the Secretary of the Kannada Development Authority to be the convenor of the ‘State Level Committee’ that will act as an enforcement authority for implementing the use of the official language.

Welcoming the bill, Leader of the Opposition R Ashoka stressed the need to impose fines.

“Even if you make it 80 percent (use of Kannada), we will support it. But what we pass should not remain only as an Act. Impose hefty fines, it’s the only thing that will work. Otherwise, (business and establishments) won’t care,” he said.

Senior BJP MLA S Suresh Kumar remarked that having to enact a law for Kannada was in itself painful.

“Why have people taken this for granted? If people who do businesses here don’t want to use Kannada, it shows a bad mindset… People have no love for Bengaluru. They don’t think it’s their city. But their customers are Kannadigas,” he said while stressing the need for enforcing the law.

The Budget session of the Karnataka Legislature, which began on Monday, is scheduled to end on 23 February.

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