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HC stays govt ban on online classes

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In interim order, court says ban violates right to education under Constitution

BENGALURU:

Staying the state government’s ban/embargo on online classes for schoolchildren, the High Court of Karnataka said on Wednesday that the ban encroached upon the fundamental right to life and education under Articles 21 and 21A of the Constitution.

“Prima facie, we are of the view that both orders of June 15 and June 27 encroach upon the fundamental right conferred by Articles 21 and 21A of the Constitution of India,” observed a division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Srinivas Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy.

The court said executive orders of the government cannot curtail fundamental rights under Articles 21 and 21A.

The court passed an interim direction staying the aforesaid government orders to the extent that they impose a ban/embargo on online classes from LKG to Class 10.

The bench clarified that its order should not be construed to mean that schools have a right to make online education compulsory or charge extra fees for the same. “Our order should not be construed to mean that students who do not opt for online education should be deprived of their normal education as and when the schools are able to start education”, the bench added.

The court’s order follows writ petitions challenging the government’s step.

‘No rationale for ban’

The bench held that there was no ‘rational basis’ for the government’s ban on online education. The fact that the government cannot extend online education to a certain category of schools is not a ground to hold that the so-called elite schools should not extend online education to their students, it said.

The state government had on June 15 directed that no schools should impart online education until a government-appointed expert committee submitted its report. On June 27, the government modified its order by allowing online classes for limited hours for students from LKG to Standard V.

The government’s argument was that the ban was temporary, till it could ensure that no student was deprived of such classes for lack of internet access.

As per statistics given by the government, of 1.45 crore students in the state, 44 lakh are enrolled in government schools, 13.60 lakh in private aided schools and 45 lakh in private unaided schools. Among them, 58.61 lakh students are in urban areas and 45.88 lakh students in rural areas.

Govt stresses child psychology

On behalf of the government, Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi had submitted that the government wanted to ensure that not a single student is deprived of online education. He said the issue of students aged up to 6 years needed to be dealt with not only from the point of view of education or fundamental rights but also child psychology. “Kindergarten is not only about schooling but more about parenting,” he said.

Senior advocate Uday Holla and advocate Pradeep Nayak, appearing for the petitioners, had submitted that the government decision was violative of the right to education of the students.

The petitioners also argued that the state government had no authority to control CBSE/ICSE-affiliated schools..

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