The State Government on Monday ,replying to the petitions filed challenging the decision to ban online classes, submitted before the High Court of Karnataka that the decision was an 'interim measure' and was not violative of fundamental right to education.
Advocate General Prabhuling K Navadgi said that the ban was an interim measure only, till the final decision is taken by the state government after considering the recommendation of the expert committee constituted to examine the viability of the same.
The government has by an order dated June 15, banned online classes. This order was modified on June 27, allowing limited classes based on guidelines issued by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for students of Lower KG to Standard V
Navadgi said the state government has to consider various factors before allowing online education and it cannot rely on the examples of schools run by petitioners, which he termed as 'Elite Schools' .
He said "Reality of the state is that some of them (students) may not have internet access. So we have to adopt an approach where this online education can be accessed by those students who are in rural areas/urban areas and are taught in vernacular languages. These are the challenges of the state."
As per statistics given to the court, around 1.45 crore students are there in the state. Around 44 lakh students are enrolled in government schools, 13.60 lakh in private aided schools and around 45 lakh students are studying in private unaided schools. Among them 58.61 lakh students are in Urban areas and 45.88 lakh students are in Rural areas.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy tried to understand from the state which are the statutory powers exercised by the state to issue the ban order.
Replying to it, Navadgi said "The petitions filed are premature in nature. The order of June 15 is in three parts. Firstly a meeting was convened by the Commissioner of Public Instructions, secondly on June 11 a note was issued by the Minister of Education before the order was passed. The order says that an expert committee is constituted to recommend the scientific ways for conducting online classes."
He added that "Power of the state to control over non CBSE/ICSE under the Karnataka Education Act is not challenged. Amendment has been made to the Act by which the state can regulate the fees of ICSE/CBSE. State does not interfere with the education but health of the students is important. The powers to issue such an executive order can be traced to Article 162, when it comes to public health and institutions."
On the point of ban being imposed on a hurry, Navadgi said
"It is the state's endeavour to ensure that not a single student is deprived of education. If eight students are taking online classes and two are not, then they will be left out. These are all factors which need to be considered. The students between 0-6 years is a more delicate subject which needs to be dealt with not only from the point of view of education or fundamental rights but also child psychology. How Children are going to react to online classes?. Because kindergarten is not only about schooling but more about parenting. These are formative years, whatever we teach them today will lay the foundation of their personality," he said.
As regards the point that other states are encouraging online education, Navadgi said "State of Gujarat and Kerala are having half and one hour classes. No other states are conducting online classes for state syllabus."
He added that "Article 21A is not a blanket right. It concerns safe education. State is concerned how this new method of online classes will have an effect on children."
He concluded by saying that "Circumstances in which we are placed this is an interim arrangement till we (state) comes out with final guidelines, the decision cannot be said to be unjust and arbitrary."
The court has now kept the matter for orders on Tuesday.