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The Karnataka High Court today sought the state government's response in a plea challenging the move to ban online classes for primary school students in the state.
The petition was filed against a Government Order dated June 11, which had directed all schools to suspend online classes for students in lower KG to class 5, till guidelines were formed by an expert committee in this regard.
The plea states that the order did not provide for any alternative mode of imparting education to students.
In this view, the petitioner Advocate Pradeep Nayak contended that this is an outright ban on online classes.
While hearing the matter today, the Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty opined,
"The issue arising is Article 21A of the Constitution. Can you (state government) completely deny opportunity of learning to these students?"
Government pleader Vikram Huilgol, appearing for the state government, contended that classes were suspended only till a mandatory committee is formed and certain guidelines are put in place for regulating the conduct of online classes.
Classes cannot be conducted for such kids for 8 hours a day, Huilgol submitted. It was contended that NIMHANS had said that children below class 5 should not be taught for 8 hours a day via online classes.
He further stated that the government was for imparting education to the students, but not in the absence of regulations.
On this, the Bench commented,
"Regulation, we understand, but as of today, there is a complete ban."
Countering the state government's contention, Nayak stated that the committee would be framing guidelines only for classes 6-10, not for classes below 5.
Further, Nayak claimed,
"They (State government) want to ban online classes and now conduct classes via Television and Youtube. This defeats the whole purpose of their said orders."
At this juncture, the Bench opined that some time would be taken in order to formulate a mandatory committee and further time would be lost by the time a report is submitted to the government.
"In principle, the State has no objections to conduct classes. So during this time, can classes be allowed for a few hours?", the Bench asked.
The Court also asked the state to clarify the measures that it would implement to ensure that even children in rural areas are given the benefit of online classes when they commence.
The matter has been posted for hearing on June 26.
The PIL contends that the June 11 order was passed after the experts submitted that excessive screen time would affect children adversely. However, there is no information available, on the aforesaid recommendations/suggestions put forth by experts, the PIL states. Additionally, it was stated that,
"If indeed the worry of the Respondents was based on expert reports were excessive screen time being spent by young children, the priority ought to have been issuing necessary directions to parents to limit non-educational screen time for these children, rather than to prohibit educational screen time altogether."