The Karnataka High Court on Monday directed the state government to respond by Friday to petitions challenging the ban imposed on conducting online classes for children from lower kindergarten to Class 5 by schools across all boards in the state and restraining the schools from collecting fees for the same.
A division bench Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy, however refused to grant any interim relief against the ban imposed by the state government on online classes.
Yet, the bench asked the State Govt if a total ban was desirable. It orally observed :
"It will take some time for the expert committee to prepare its report, after which it will be submitted to the government which will take some time on deciding on it. Till then, in the meanwhile can you not permit online classes for few hours, if in pricincple state has no objection to conducting of online classes."
The observation followed after government pleader Vikram Huilgol told the court that the state is not denying the Right to Education, but some advisory needs to be prepared some sought of regulation is required children cannot be allowed to sit before the screen for eight hours. A reference was made of experts at National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS) having opined against online classes and additional screen time for such young students.
As per an order issued on June 15, by the State Primary and Secondary Education department under section 7 of the Karnataka Education Act, the online classes have been banned in the state. The order also says that a committee headed by senior academician Prof M K Sridhar will look into the scientific ways of offering online education to kids between Class 6 to 10 according to their age.
Advocate Pradeep Nayak appearing for one of the petitioners argued that the mandate of the committee is to look into ways of offering online education to children studying in classes 6 to 10. Thus the committee report does not address the ban on online classes of students from Lower KG to Class V. Moreover, the action of the state is manifestly arbitrary and is in violation of the fundamental rights of the students to education.
He also argued that the state government has without any basis or reasoning in complete ignorance of the fact that schools, teachers, parents and students have invested significant time, energy, resources and efforts to seamlessly adapt to the new medium of online education in order to ensure a seamless continuity in the education of their children during the ongoing pandemic, imposed a complete ban on online education.
Countering the arguments Huilgol said "Fifteen days time is given to the committee and soon the report will be submitted." He sought time to address the court on the same till Friday. While granting time to the state the bench raised doubts on the reach of the online system of education in rural areas. It said "Online education has limitations in rural areas. The state will have to address it." It concluded by saying "Solution must be found out or else this will create a chaotic situation."
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