Guidelines for online classes being prepared, Centre tells Madras HC

Notification will be issued by July 15, says Additional Solicitor General

July 06, 2020 04:15 pm | Updated July 07, 2020 03:05 am IST

Online classes have raised safety concerns among parents and teachers. Photo: R. Ashok

Online classes have raised safety concerns among parents and teachers. Photo: R. Ashok

The Centre on Monday informed the Madras High Court that guidelines are being prepared for the conduct of online classes, a mode of teaching used widely during the COVID-19 lockdown, by schools and colleges. The guidelines would be notified by July 15.

Justices M.M. Sundresh and R. Hemalatha recorded the submission made by Additional Solicitor General R. Shankaranarayanan and adjourned to July 20 a batch of public interest litigation petitions filed against the conduct of online classes without any regulations.

The judges also directed the State government to spell out its stand on the issue besides filing a report from the Dean of Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and the Government Ophthalmic Hospital at Egmore here as directed by another Bench.

On June 23, a Division Bench comprising Justices R. Subbiah and Krishnan Ramasamy had called for a report from the Dean on the possible strain that could be caused to the eyes of children due to prolonged hours of time spent before computers and mobile phones.

Vehement opposition

When the cases were taken up on Monday, senior counsel S. Prabakaran and advocates J. Ravindran, Ajay Francis Inigo Loyola and J. Rishikesh appearing for the PIL petitioners vehemently opposed the conduct of online classes without any rules and regulations in place.

Mr. Loyola insisted the government should be directed to webcast pre-recorded classes rather than conducting them live.

On his part, Mr. Rishikesh said, the State government was yet to make its stand clear on the issue of conduct of online classes though the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEIT) had filed a counter affidavit in support of conduct of such classes.

Mr. Ravindran said though the earlier Division Bench had called for a report from the Government Ophthalmic Hospital by June 25, it was yet to be submitted in the court. He also urged the court to stay the conduct of online classes until the next hearing of the cases.

However, Justice Sundresh refused to pass any interim orders in the batch of cases and decided to await Centre’s guidelines. In its counter, MEIT had said extraordinary situations warranted extraordinary solutions and so online education had become a necessity during the lockdown.

Ministry’s assurance

Stating that it was committed to ensuring that online education was safe for children, the Ministry said, advancement of technology had provided an alternative mode of learning through virtual classrooms to enable students to continue their studies without any disruption.

It also claimed to have put in place a robust administrative framework to regulate video conferencing platforms under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules of 2011 and the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules of 2011.

“The law requires that these video conferencing platforms appoint a grievance officer to whom any unlawful content or grievance can be reported. They are also required to remove any such unlawful content and also provide the information of any such uploader to the law enforcement agency as and when requested by them through a lawful order,” the counter read.

The court was further told that the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), a national nodal agency for cyber security incidents in the country, had been issuing various advisories from time to time for safe Internet use even with respect to children and that those advisories were available on

State governments must ensure that online classes were conducted safely, the MEIT said, and added that online platforms were only facilitating the interaction between students and teachers.

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