Supreme Court has issued notice in a plea seeking for directions to the Union to formulate a uniform education policy in every State in order to curb discriminatory practices adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure participation of children of weaker sections in elementary education.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde heard the matter as Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan argued for the Petitioner, and issued notice in the same. The plea, filed by Advocate-on-Record Deepak Prakash on behalf of Good Governance Chambers, intends to highlight the failures of the Respondents in effectively addressing issues related to elementary education of children in the age group of 6 to 14 years, as mandated under Article 21A of the Constitution of India as well as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. It is submitted that the "steps taken by the Respondents to regulate elementary education in the time of COVID-19 are not only grossly inadequate, but also creating inequality and puts children belonging to weaker section of society under perpetually disadvantageous position". The plea further seeks to underline the apathetic stance of the Respondents toward students who are affected by "reverse migration and are on verge of dropping out of school due to economic hardships faced by their parents". In the above context, the Petitioner contends that by imparting education via digital mode (i.e. online classes), the Respondents have failed to acknowledge the digital divide within India. "However, lack of digitalization in India, and unavailability of digital devices and gadgets poses a serious challenge for majority of students to receive the intended education, more so when the majority of children come from economically and socially weaker sections of society". Further, it is submitted in the plea Respondents have taken no steps to mitigate the problems of children of migrant labourers and those children with disabilities, with the latter having no access to the means and the former being unable to utilize the online education facilities due to their special needs. The plea goes on to aver that the guidelines issued by the Respondents are "inadequate to sufficiently deal with the hurdles of implementation of Online education for all children throughout the country". The guidelines by the name of PRAGYATA, aimed at solving majority of issues in the field of digital field, "miserably fails to suggest effective measures to deal with situations of children not having access to online education, migrant children and children with disabilities". Additionally, it is stated that the guidelines also fail to acknowledge the need for coordinated action with the State to form uniform policy regarding opening of school and operation of schools. Accordingly, the plea prays for a plethora of directions to the Respondents, such as formulation of uniform policies on State level for both Government and private schools regarding mode education, formulation of alternative strategies for those who are unable to access Online Education, formulation of policies to permit children of migrant labourers to take admission in nearby schools without the required documents etc.
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