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'Virtual Mode Of Operation Can Go On Hand In Hand With Physical Mode': Madras High Court Bats For Online Classes, Virtual Courts

Aaratrika Bhaumik
22 Oct 2021 9:10 AM GMT
Virtual Mode Of Operation Can Go On Hand In Hand With Physical Mode: Madras High Court Bats For Online Classes, Virtual Courts
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Observing that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has opened up new avenues such as the conduct of online classes for school and college students as well as virtual courts for lawyers and litigants, the Madras High Court on Thursday underscored the need to continue the virtual mode of education for the benefit of stakeholders. A Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice...

Observing that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has opened up new avenues such as the conduct of online classes for school and college students as well as virtual courts for lawyers and litigants, the Madras High Court on Thursday underscored the need to continue the virtual mode of education for the benefit of stakeholders.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu stated that nodal agencies such the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) could consider extending online classes in future too especially for those with locomotor disabilities.

"Papers have been filed by the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education indicating how several courses are permitted online, while others are not. It may do well for all the nodal bodies to re-visit the matter, without being unnecessarily rigid, so that education may be more accessible, for instance to persons with disabilities who may have locomotor disabilities and face difficulty in travelling", the Court opined.

The Bench made these observations while disposing of a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed earlier this year seeking directions for the formulation of a scheme to vaccinate students, teachers and non-teaching staff in higher education institutions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Court noted that the instant petition had served its purpose as most students involved in higher education, together with the teaching and non-teaching staff have been vaccinated.

"At any rate, those interested in getting vaccinated have had an opportunity in such regard. Several institutions have also opened and classes are being conducted", the Court further remarked.

Students must be allowed to exercise choice of attending online classes when they are ill or when they reside far away from school premises

Enumerating upon the practice of online classes, the Court opined that the atmosphere of being together in a school or in a college or a university must also be experienced as much as the education imparted there. However, it was noted that students must be given the discretion of exercising choice of attending online classes when they are unwell subject to prior permission.

"Several students who spend a lot of time travelling may be spared the daily trouble by choosing which of the days to attend classes physically and which others to attend on the virtual mode, subject to any rules or regulations that may be prescribed in such regard.", the Court elucidated further.

Virtual Courts increases accessibility, saves time and resources 

Furthermore, speaking on the benefits of virtual courts, the Bench noted that while it is stressful to participate in a virtual hearing, primarily because of the quality of connectivity at times, if the quality of the connection is appropriate, it opens up a lot of possibilities.

"Litigants who would have found it inconvenient to attend court proceedings because of the possible period of waiting, can now log on at the time when their matter is taken up and observe the proceedings without taking the trouble of coming to court or having to waste the entire day in the process", the Court remarked.

Similarly, because of virtual courts lawyers do not need to travel long distances and can use the convenience of their chambers to participate in virtual hearings, the Court noted further.

"If nothing else, a lot of resources involved in the travelling, not to speak of time, is saved," it added.

The Bench further stated that the online classes could be conducted as an alternative to physical classes or in addition to physical classes or as a combination of both, depending upon the course. It left it open to the authorities concerned to take a call in this regard after a thorough analysis.

While disposing of the petition, the Court cautioned that the lessons learnt from the pandemic with regards to alternative forms of conducting business or education must not be forgotten and accordingly observed,

"Since the petition has worked itself out and there are no reports yet of a further surge though a substantial part of the festive season is already over, it is hoped that life can return to normal, but with the lessons learnt from the pandemic in alternative forms of conducting business or education not to be forgotten, so that the virtual mode of operation can go on hand in hand with the physical mode."

Case Title: Nervazhi Iyakkam Trust v. Union of India

Click Here To Read/Download Order 


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