The Bombay High Court in an order passed on Monday had some harsh words for a petitioner who challenged the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) dated June 15 for online classes for school students approved by the Maharashtra government calling it irrational.
The bench of Justice SB Shukre and SM Modak of the Nagpur bench heard the public interest litigation filed by Imran Sheikh, said-
"If the Standard Operating Procedure encourages e-learning, any citizen of India questioning its intentions and purposes would only be acting against interest and well being of his own country."
At the very outset, the bench observed-
"In the present form of petition with the kind of prayers that the petition makes, we are of the prima facie impression that the petition represents only a regressive step in the field of education. The petition does not point out any inherent contradictions, defects and lacunae in the Standard Operating Procedure dated 15th June, 2020 so as to term it arbitrary, irrational or unreasonable and hence amenable to interference by this Court on the ground of violation of any fundamental right to education."
Moreover, Court noted that all the issues attempted to be raised in the petition basically relate to implementation of the Standard Operating Procedure. The bench said-
"If there are any difficulties in implementation of Standard Operating Procedure, they could be sorted out by the State Government and if required also by the Union Government provided they are appropriately pointed out.
It is, however, noticed that the petitioner has not approached the appropriate Governments for removal of the lacunae.
Today, we are in 21st century where the world is being governed digitally in a greater way and therefore, the Standard Operating Procedure which prescribes e-learning and promotes digital and virtual methods of learning cannot but be hailed as a big progressive measure taken by the Government in making digital position of India stronger and firmer in the Comity of Nations. If the Standard Operating Procedure encourages e-learning, any citizen of India questioning its intentions and purposes would only be acting against interest and well being of his own country."
However, Court also said that a citizen of India, however, may come across some issues in effective implementation of the Standard Operating Procedure but for that matter his duty would be to point out the same to the concerned authority, so that necessary corrective measures are taken by the authority.
Petitioner's counsel Advocate SP Bodalkar pointed that the difficulty is with factors external to the policy. The bench retorted-
"When these factors can be corrected, the policy cannot be termed as defective or unconstitutional. It is only when there are inherent defects or lacunae in the policy or the external factors are of nature which are irremovable or which are beyond repairs, then only the policy could be blamed as the one inherently defective and hence, adversely affecting the fundamental right to education."
Thus, Court concluded that it would be better for the petitioner to first approach the concerned authorities for what he sees as defects or lacunae in the implementation of the Standard Operating Procedure. The bench added-
"Of course with necessary facts and proofs, and not just surmises or imaginary facts, and if the petitioner does not get any appropriate response from the authorities, inspite of submission of legally acceptable proof, the petitioner would be at liberty to knock at the doors of this Court."
Therefore, the PIL was disposed of.
Yesterday, the Karnataka HC had stayed the government orders banning online classes, holding such ban to be violative of fundamental right to education.
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