The High Court of Kerala on Wednesday passed an interim order restraining a school from levying additional fees on students for holding virtual classes.
A single bench of Justice C S Dias also referred the writ petition to a division bench, in view of the "substantial public interest involved".
The bench also made reference to the suicide of 14-year old Devika, which was allegedly due to her inability to join online classes as she did not she did not have a smart phone and a working television set in house.
"It is disheartening to learn that a student allegedly took away her life due to lack of access to the internet for attending virtual classes", the Court observed.
The Court noted that tight to education is sacrosanct in the Constitution of India and is the mandate under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
While making the reference, the Court also noted that several states have ordered that students should not be denied education for want of payment of fees during this pandemic period.
The Court passed the order in a writ petition filed by two students, Sreelakshmi S and Dhanvin Pillai, students of 3rd standard and LKG respectively, challenging the decision of their school, Sree Budha Central School, Karunagappally, to demand payment of fees even without starting normal teaching method in the school or even without providing quality virtual class room teaching or online classes. The petitioners also raised the grievance that the State Government has not issued proper guidelines for online classes. In the absence of clear instructions on online classes, teachers are passing off mere voice clips as if they would amount to online classes, the petitioners stated.
"The charging of fees for the period during which there will be no classes is unreasonable and liable to be interfered with...
The right of the petitioners and other students to get education will be affected by the same. The lack of proper directions from the part of the Government is the reason for the same and the situation prevailing in Kerala in this regard necessitates and justifies interference of this Hon'ble Court to issue directions to the Government and place interim measures till such a decision is taken",read the petition filed through Advocates Manu Ramachandran, M Kiranlal, R Rajesh, T S Sarath and Sameer Nair.
On May 12, the Uttarkhand High Court had passed an order to stop private schools, which were not conducting online classes, from demanding tuition fee during the lockdown period. Challenging this direction, the schools had approached the SC, and the apex court issued notices on the SLPs last week.
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