However, the Court clarified that school authorities have no right to make online education compulsory for students, or charge any extra fee for the same.
The Karnataka High Court today stayed the part of the state government orders dated June 15 and June 27 which had imposed a ban on conduct of online classes for school students from LKG to Class 10.
The interim order was passed in a batch of pleas challenging the state government’s move to ban online classes for primary school students.
The order passed by a Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Natraj Rangaswamy reads,
“That part of the orders dated June 14 and June 27 which impose ban/embargo on conduct of online classes by the schools from LKG to Class 10 will remain stayed.”
Karnataka High Court
However, the Court clarified that school authorities have no right to make online education compulsory for students, or charge any extra fee for the same. The Bench held,
“Our order should not be construed to mean that students who do not opt for online education should be deprived of their normal education as and when the schools are able to start education.”
The Court further observed,
“Prima facie, it appears to be very strange to us as to why the state came out with an embargo even on interaction with parents of pre-primary school children for 30 mins as per June 27 order. The June 27 order says interaction with parents would only be for 30 mins, that too for one day in a week.”
Moreover, the Bench stated that the conclusion which could be drawn was that right to have online education for pre-primary students was completely taken away by the June 27 order. It opined,
“Prima facie, we find that both the government orders have encroached upon fundamental rights under 21 and 21A of the Constitution.”
The Court noted that the academic term for this year had already commenced, and with schools being closed, the only way of imparting education was by providing the facility of online coaching/online training.
Additionally, the Court said that even assuming that both state government orders were passed under Article 163 of the Constitution, even then, the same cannot curtail fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 21 and 21A of the Constitution.
On the point of Pragyata Guidelines relied upon by the state, the Court firstly noted that restrictions put in the June 27 order were directly picked up from clauses 3.1.3 of said guidelines.
In this regard, the High Court opined that when the said guidelines are read as a whole, it does not intend to put an embargo on online learning, especially in light of schools being shut till July 31.
“Therefore, prima facie, we are of the view that impugned orders are not issued in excercise of any statutory power. By enacting a law, reasonable restrictions could have been imposed on exercise of fundamental rights. But the Karnataka Education Act, 1983 cannot be the law which permits the state government to do that.”
The Court also said that it would not interfere with the recommendations of the committee of experts appointed by the state government on conduct of online classes.
“It is not necessary for us to interfere with that part of the order as there is nothing wrong if the government constitutes a committee of experts so that the opinion of the experts is available to the state government for decision making process.”
When the matter came up for hearing few days ago, the Court heard arguments made by the counsel for the petitioners as well as Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi, who was appearing for the state.
Firstly, AG Navadgi contended that the state government was not against imparting education to students by means of online classes.
He further informed the Court that it had to look into various factors such how education could be provided in rural areas, and whether it could be given in vernacular languages etc., among others. He further asserted that the state wanted to ensure that not a single student loses this academic year.
Navadgi further stated that an impression is being created by the petitioners that the government had acted in hurry. An interim arrangement has been made by the government till the expert committee files it report. Therefore, there is no violation of any Act, Navadgi submitted.