A division bench of the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday confirmed the interim order passed by a coordinate bench of the court on July 8, 2020, by which it had stayed the government orders issued on June 15 and June 27, 2020 to the extent they put an embargo on conducting online classes for students of LKG to Class X.
Justices BV Nagarathna and Hanchate Sanjeevkumar said,
"We find that interim direction ought to be in force until the state government decides to make a decision with regards to reopening of schools physically or take a policy decision in regards to conducting of online classes."
The bench while disposing of a batch of petitions which had challenged the government orders issued last year said, "Now with the change in circumstances all this has become academic."
The Government order issued on June 15, 2020, stated that no schools should impart online education until the expert committee constituted by the Government submitted its suggestions regarding the viability of online classes. Later on June 27, 2020 the Government modified the order allowing online classes for limited hours for students from lower KG to Standard V, following the guidelines laid down by the authorities.
In its order, the division bench said "Since the counsels appearing for the petitioners and the additional government advocate submitted that the interim directions issued by order dated July 8, 2020 are in operation and bearing in mind the fact that covid-19 cases presently have reduced and state is on the verge of taking a positive decision with regards to reopening of the schools and online education being imparted to children, vis-a-vis, the changing circumstance, we find that interim direction ought to be in force until state decides to make decision with regards to reopening of schools physically or take a policy decision to online classes."
It added "In the circumstances we dispose of these petitions by reiterating the directions issued by this court in its interim order dated July 8, and affirm the said direction by way of this final order."
Further the court clarified "Needless to observe that state will be at liberty to take decision in regards to re-opening of schools and also the manner in which online education be imparted to students by having regard to experts opinion and to having regard to threat of covid-19 situation, which is still at horizon but has not completely been eradicated in the state."
In its order dated July 8, 2020 the court had noted "Prima facie we are of the view that both orders of June 15 and June 27, encroached upon the Fundamental Right conferred by Article 21 and 21A of the Constitution of India." Further, it had added "Executive orders passed by the Government under Article 162 of the Constitution cannot curtail the fundamental rights under Articles 21 and 21A."
The court had also said "There cannot be any dispute that academic term for this year has already commenced. Only way of providing education was by providing facilities of online coaching/online training. There was no "rational basis" for passing orders banning online education."
The court had also noted that the fact that the state is not able to extend online education to certain categories of schools is not a ground to hold that the so-called "elite schools" should not extend online education to their students.
The State had said that the ban was only an interim measure, until the government explored options to ensure that no student was deprived of education on account of lack of access to the internet.