The order has come in a plea moved by ‘Justice For All’. The plea seeks laptops, internet connection, and other devices for EWS (Economically Weaker Section) and DG (Disadvantaged Groups) category students so that they can participate in the online classes organized by the schools in light of COVID19 lockdown.
Ld.counsel Mr Khagesh Jha appeared for the Petitioner. He argued that it is a Fundamental Right to Free and Compulsory Education under Article 21A of the Constitution of India read with Sections 3 and 8 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
Mr Jha further emphasizes that Section 8(d) of the RTE Act, 2009 casts a duty upon the State/GNCTD to provide all the requisite infrastructure. It includes the school building, teaching staff as well as learning equipment, and the gadgets required to participate in online education.
Mr Jha further argued that Section 12(2) of the RTE Act defines the extent of reimbursement to the private unaided school that provides free and compulsory education in terms of Section 12(1)(c).
It is submitted that “State” in Article 21A includes the State Government as well as the Central Government and local authorities. He stated that the law giving effect to Article 21A is the RTE Act, 2009, which is Central legislation.
Ld. Counsel further emphasized that the obligations of the State in the present scenario have to be viewed keeping in mind the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic.
It is further submitted that the Central Government is ensuring that EWS/DG children are not deprived of education. By providing access to education through Television Channels, All India Radio, the Internet, etc.
The Court considered the arguments made in length by not just the State Government and the Petitioner, but also various private schools that were made parties to this petition. It relied upon the judicial precedent from both India and abroad, as well as on The Learning: The Treasure Within report of UNESCO.
The Court also observed that the Rights of the EWS and DG category students under section 3 of the RTE Act have been seriously undermined by some schools.
The Division Bench of Justice Manmohan and Justice Sanjeev Narula allowed schools to seek reimbursement under section 12 of the RTE Act.
The Court also constituted a committee comprising the Secretary, Ministry of Education, Central Government, or his nominee. This was in order to make Standard Operating Procedures for the identification of standard gadgets and internet packages. With this, EWS/DG students can access elementary education through digital online means.
The Committee shall identify gadgets within two weeks from its constitution. It will take into account all relevant factors including their utility, ease of operation, cost, maintenance, charges, gadget expiry, the reputation of the manufacturer, child lock, etc.
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