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Restrictions violate fundamental right to education; Karnataka HC stays Govt Ban on online classes


Bengaluru: 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 we are of the view that both orders of June 15 and June 27, encroached upon the Fundamental Right conferred by Article 21 and 21A of the Constitution of India", observed a division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Srinivas Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy.

The bench passed an 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.

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 favored 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.

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