Karnataka HC stays ban, restrictions imposed on online classes

In a setback to the State government, the High Court of Karnataka on Wednesday stayed the initial ban and the subsequent curbs imposed on schools against conducting online classes from pre-primary level to class 10.

Prima facie the ban and the curbs imposed on conducting online classes violate Articles 21 and 21A of the Constitution, which guarantees fundamental right to education as the online mode is the only way available at present to impart education to the students in view of the closure of regular schools owing to COVID-19 pandemic, the court said.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy passed the interim order staying the government’s June 15 and 27 orders, legality of which were challenged by several parents and schools.

The Bench said the government lacked powers under the Karnataka Education Act, 1983 to impose ban or restrictions on online education.

Court’s clarification

However, the Bench made it clear that this order should not be construed as if schools have the right to make online education compulsory and can charge fees to impart education in online mode. Also, it should not be construed that students who cannot opt for online classes can be deprived of the education when regular classes commence, the court clarified.

Not being able to give online education in some sections of schools, including government schools, is not a ground to stop other schools from giving online education, the Bench said while referring to the government’s contention that petitions were filed by “elite” schools and parents sending their children to such schools, and many parents and schools cannot opt for online education.

Going by the Article 21 and 21A of the Constitution, the State government will have to take steps to ensure that those students not studying in “elite” schools and those in the schools run by the government are not deprived of education during this pandemic, and, in fact, the government will have to create infrastructure to give education in such types of schools during this period.

Noticing that the Union government, in its COVID-19 guidelines had favoured encouraging online education as regular schools are ordered to be closed till July 31, the Bench observed that considering the situation created by the pandemic, there is not even an expectation that the schools will be opened immediately after July 31.

The Bench said that prima facie “no rational basis” can be found in the government’s decisions as on June 15 online education from pre-primary to class 5 was completely banned while allowing it for classes 6 to 10, and on June 27 severe curbs were imposed on online education for classes 1 to 10 while completely banning online education for pre-primary classes.

‘Strange embargo’

“It is difficult to understand what prompted the government to impose embargo on online education for classes 6 to 10 in the June 27 order when there was no such curbs in the June 15 order,” the Bench observed while pointing out that there was no intention to prohibit or curb online education in the Pragyata guideline for digital education of the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 12:21:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/karnataka-hc-stays-ban-restrictions-imposed-on-online-classes/article32021598.ece

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