The Supreme Court on Monday refused to direct the central and state governments to expedite their decision on resuming physical classes in schools, reported Live Law. The petition was filed by a school student who lives in Delhi.
“Ask your client to focus on studies in school and not involve himself in seeking constitutional remedies,” the court told the petitioner’s lawyer. “See how misplaced this petition is. I am not saying it is a publicity gimmick but this is why children must not involve themselves in all this.”
Schools across the country were closed in March 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic that triggered a nationwide lockdown.
Some states, including Delhi, have partially resumed physical classes after the second wave of Covid-19 abated. In Delhi, physical classes have resumed only for students in Classes 9 to 12 and there is no clarity on when younger children will be able to return to their classrooms.
On Monday, the court told the petitioner to take up the matter with the Delhi government. The petitioner withdrew the plea after the court refused to hear it.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna observed that under Article 21A of the Constitution, states are responsible for providing education to children in the age group 6 years-14 years in the manner they determine.
Article 21 A guarantees free and compulsory education as a fundamental right
“The governments are ultimately answerable,” Justice Chandrachud said. “They are also conscious of the need for children to gradually go back to school. We cannot, by judicial diktat, say that you shall send your children back to school, oblivious of the danger which may be there.”
Chandrachud pointed out that that while the second wave has abated, the risk of rapid spread of infections still existed. “I don’t think these are the kinds of relief where the court should issue general directions that send all children to school,” he observed.
The judge said that it was a matter “fraught with grave complexities” and suggested that the decision should be left with state governments.
“Let the states find out where the spike is taking place, which are those areas within the state – there maybe states with 75 districts, 52 districts, states with high density of population in some districts and other districts with less density – these are matters which we should leave to the government to decide,” Chandrachud said.
He noted that there should be a balance between how the children were getting affected mentally and physically while studying at home and if there were dangers when they come in contact with each other in schools.
“Our governments have taken a decision to have a phased reopening of school at the board level – for the 9th standard, 10th standard, 11 standard, 12th standard,” the judge said. “We can’t pick up children in the first standard and combine with them with these children who are making their foray into higher education.”
Chandrachud said that the governments themselves have to tread carefully when taking decisions that expose children to the dangers of Covid-19.
“So the court must be equally or even more careful because there is absence of data before us, absence of scientific knowledge on our part and also on the part of the petitioner who has moved the court,” he added.
Meanwhile, India on Monday morning recorded 30,256 new coronavirus cases, pushing the infection tally in the country to 3,34,78,419 since the pandemic broke out in January last year. With 295 deaths, the toll climbed to 4,45,133.