Court Of Appeal: Using Tamil & Chinese In Vernacular Schools Is Constitutional

A three-person bench unanimously dismissed the appeal by multiple groups, which challenged the vernacular schools' legality.

Cover image via FMT & Sin Chew Daily via Straits Times

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The Court of Appeal, in a ruling yesterday, 23 November, has affirmed the constitutionality of vernacular schools and the use of Chinese and Tamil languages as their medium of instruction

The decision follows the dismissal of a lawsuit by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on 29 December 2021. The lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of vernacular schools, was filed by the Islamic Education Development Council (MAPPIM), the Confederation of Malaysian Writers Association (GAPENA), and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA).

Separately, on 30 May last year, the Kota Bharu High Court ruled against the Ikatan Guru-Guru Muslim Malaysia (I-Guru) in a similar suit.

The Court of Appeal's unanimous judgment squashed the four non-governmental organisations' (NGOs) bid to overturn the two High Court decisions, reported FMT.

The three-member bench appellate court said that the Federal Constitution protects the use of Tamil and Chinese in vernacular schools, even though Bahasa Melayu is recognised as Malaysia's national language.

Justice Datuk Azizul Azmi Adnan elaborated on the decision, highlighting that vernacular schools have received official recognition within the legislative framework of the education system since before Malaya's independence and the enactment of the 1957 constitution.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via FMT

The court said the use of Tamil and Chinese in national type schools as a medium of instruction is protected under a specific provision, namely Article 152(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution

The provision mandates the government to preserve and sustain the use and study of languages of other communities in the country.

Azizul said the Court of Appeal agrees with the Kuala Lumpur High Court's decision that the establishment and existence of national type schools — which use Tamil and Chinese for teaching – does not infringe Articles 5, 8, 10, 11, and 12 of the Federal Constitution, reported Malay Mail.

The three-member bench was chaired by Datuk Supang Lian, who was joined by Datuk M Gunalan and Azizul.

They ordered the appellants to bear their own legal costs as the cases involve public interest.

Meanwhile, following the proceedings yesterday, the lawyer who spoke on behalf of the NGOs, Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, stated that they plan to submit an appeal to the Federal Court, reported the New Straits Times.

Here are more conversations about vernacular schools in Malaysia:

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