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Implead Centre, CBSE in PIL plea on online classes

Observing that ‘people sitting in Delhi must think of some schools in Thar desert’ while permitting private schools to conduct online classes, the Telangana High Court passed a direction that Central Board of Secondary Education and Central government be made respondents in a PIL petition questioning online classes for school students.

A bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy, hearing a PIL plea filed by Hyderabad School Parents Association, directed the petitioner to implead the CBSE and the Centre in the petition. Special Government Pleader Sanjeev Kumar, appearing for State government, suggested that the National Council for Teachers Education too be made respondents in the petition.

The bench told the petitioner’s counsel to do so and implead others connected to the matter as well, posting it to July 13 for next hearing. Earlier during the hearing, the bench did not agree with the contention of lawyer Adinarayana Rao, appearing for some schools following Central Board curriculum, said that online classes were going on for the past two months for students following international programmes.

He informed the court that there were schemes to make available laptops at subsidised rates to students so that they can avail online classes. “Those who can afford would provide three laptops to their three children. But some families find it difficult to provide two square meals a day to their children,” the Chief Justice observed.

Describing coronavirus as 21st century’s pandemic, the bench sought to know whether governments can think of Internet in tribal areas. “Why cannot Delhi see the ground reality”, the bench said. When the counsel said academic activity would come to a halt if online classes were not conducted, the bench said in fact lives of migrant labourers and construction workers had come to a grinding halt due to COVID-19.

Even the judiciary functioning got affected and the previous day, the Judicial Academy lost one of its employees, the CJ said. “This must be the critical moment of 21st century,” the bench said. Even the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR) campus on city outskirts did not have proper Internet infrastructure let alone areas where the tribal people live, the bench said.

The bench also expressed dissatisfaction over the State government not taking a clear stand on permitting private schools to conduct online classes. “Why are the private schools conducting online classes in the backdrop of the pandemic. Why are they insisting on uniforms,” the bench sought to know from the government.

When the SGP said the “government was not permitting online classes for school students”, the bench said at the same time it was also not stopping private schools from doing so. The government’s dilly-dallying on the issue was not correct, the bench remarked.

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