Reason as Rhetoric: Use of Language in Deciding Institutional Autonomy for Anglo-Indian Schools


  • Upamanyu Sengupta


This paper examines the role of rhetoric in framing juridical discourse on the Anglo-Indian community’s right to establish and administer educational institutions as guaranteed by Article 30 (1) of the Constitution of India. My study involves a content analysis of the texts of three judgments delivered at the Calcutta High Court, viz. State of West Bengal v Daughters of the Cross (1984), The Association of Teachers in Anglo Indian Schools v The Association of Aids of Anglo Indian Schools in India (1994) and Mrs Hasi Sen v State of West Bengal (2016). In each of these, the court invokes Article 30 (1) to determine the nature and scope of this right vested on the institutions and squares it up against the scope of State intervention. In the process, the judgments offer divergent and even conflicting narratives of institutional autonomy and division of powers. Of particular interest is the court’s construct of disciplinary power as an essential and inalienable attribute of autonomy for the Anglo-Indian schools while simultaneously bracketing it within regulatory powers of the State. Taking cue from Stanley Fish’s claim of such constructs being given to “mechanisms of persuasion” steered by rhetoric, I posit the judgments as sites actively mapping out questions of identity for the Anglo-Indian community in relation to institutional spaces.