The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday stayed the state government’s order banning conduct of online classes from pre-primary level to Class 10, reported Bar and Bench. In its interim judgement, the court said the orders violated Articles 21 and 21A of the Constitution that guarantee fundamental right to education.

The division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy was hearing a clutch of petitions against the state government’s orders passed on June 15 and June 27. It noted that online mode is the only way available at present to impart education as schools were shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The bench said the government did not have powers under the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, to impose ban or restrictions on online education.

“Prima facie, we are of the view that impugned orders are not issued in exercise of any statutory power,” the bench noted. “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.”

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. “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,” it said.

The court added that the state government will have to take steps to ensure that those students not studying in “elite schools” and those in government schools were not deprived of education during this pandemic. The government will have to create infrastructure to give education in such types of schools during this period, said the bench.

Schools across the country have been shut since March 25 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most educational institutions in India have switched to online classes amid a surge in coronavirus cases. They will remain closed till July 31. In May, the Centre had said that the decision to reopen schools and colleges will be taken in July, during the second phase of ‘Unlock’, which is what the phase-wise procedure of easing lockdown restrictions has been called.

India is now the third worst coronavirus-hit country in the world. The country’s coronavirus tally rose to 7,67,296, with 24,879 new cases in 24 hours on Thursday morning. This is the highest single-day surge in fresh infections. The toll went up to 21,129. More than 4.76 lakh people have recovered so far.

Follow today’s live updates on the pandemic here