Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

A great nation is built on a character of its own citizens. It transforms into the character of the nation leading to its progress achieved through a value system.

— Madras High Court

Madras High Court: The Division Bench of M.M. Sundresh and R. Hemalatha, JJ., while addressing the present petition with regard to concerns arising due to online classes  quoted Swami Vivekananda,

“We want the education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet.”

EDUCATION

Further, explaining the concept of education, Court stated that,

“A man is both a creator and destroyer. Therefore, he is his own future. A better future can only be secured through the younger generation, existing and awaiting.”

The process of creating a good citizen has got multiple roadblocks created by various factors. Thus, Education will have to address this seminal issue without deviating towards more literacy in imparting knowledge without character.

RIGHT USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN IMPARTING EDUCATION

With the onslaught of information pouring through technology, it is imperative to make sure that the children are groomed in the right way. Further, it was added that as we know, technology as such cannot be faulted but only its wrong usage.

CONCERN

Present matter has raised concerns with regard to the usage of online classes hastened by the pandemic.

Online classes have become one of the necessities than an option as schools are yet to re-open.

Social Divide is another factor which unfortunately gets widened through the imparting of the present education between the rich and the poor through the varied curriculum, methodology and facilities.

At the time of filing of the writ petitions, guidelines of the Union of India and the State Government were not in existence.

Bench stated that since the Court has prefaced on the extensive and exhaustive guidelines of the Government of India and the State Government, therefore it refrains from going into the materials produced.

Hence Court only highlights the important aspects of the guidelines while concentrating on the issues flowing out of the same including the complaints made on the extensive usage by some of the overzealous institutions.

CYBER BULLYING

Specific instructions have also been given to avoid cyberbullying. Clear instructions have been given to students studying in different classes, Parents and Teachers. Schools have been instructed to balance both online and offline activities. Advice has been given to safety and ethical precautions.

ATTENDANCE

On the question of attendance, schools have been informed that it shall not be accounted as mandatory for performance evaluation purposes.

Decision

High Court on perusal of the above stated that this new form of Education is created by the technology which has been imposed upon us by the pandemic. Therefore, it should be used as an opportunity to deal with the situation until the normalcy is restored.

Digitalization has created distinct literate called digital literates.

The Institutions along with the Teachers and Parents will have to play their respective roles with all seriousness.

Court has noted that that there are certain schools that are overburdening in conducting the examinations, making the attendance mandatory and taking classes beyond the time limit mentioned in the guidelines.

Bench does not approve of the above.

Taking care of the interest of the children is the primary duty of the Parents, Teachers, Institutions, Government and the Court.

Court is of the firm view that that the guidelines are to get the trappings of the mandatory directions.

Further, it was also stated that classes of varied categories such as Government Schools which are few in existence, aided and un-aided schools, their curriculum is also different. In view of the said, Court held that the guidelines are to be complied with by all the stakeholders.

Usage of recorded versions of online classes through local television

It is for the respective schools to adopt their mode while keeping in mind the guidelines issued. However, they can also explore the possibility of going for the recorded classes as it would ease out the pressure from the point of view of the students. Similarly, recorded versions can be sent through Whatsapp apart from being uploaded in the school portals.

Keeping in mind the interests of children, bench issued the following directions:

  • Guidelines issued by the Government of India and the State Government are to be treated and construed as mandatory
  • Time limit for the online classes should be strictly adhered to and any violation would require action
  • State of Tamil Nadu and other bodies, with whom the Schools are affiliated, shall issue circulars to the Schools which are to be circulated in turn to the Parents towards the measures that are required to be taken to block obscene contents.
  • programmes conducted will have to be sent by Whatsapp to the Parents and uploaded in the school portals.
  • At every District level, the Government of Tamil Nadu and the other competent authorities are expected to set up a Committee to monitor and supervise the due compliance of the guidelines by the institutions. These Committees will have to meet once in a month.
  • Concerned schools will have to undertake the exercise of identifying the problems being faced by the parents and teachers in online connectivity and avilability of the device.
  • Schools can also allow group of students identified by them requiring special attendance in view of the difficulties faced in online and digital education to attend physical classes while following social distance.
  • Schools can also explore the possibility of Teachers going to the students and giving education if there exists a facility to do so.
  • Guidelines with regard to attendance, test and examination will have to be strictly complied with.
  • Guidelines with respect to pre-primary students will have to be complied with strictly.
  • Schools will also have to explore the possibility of having end-to-end encryption.
  • Guidelines of the State Government will have to be translated in Tamil, if not done already.
  • There shall be an interaction between the Schools and Parents on the functioning of the online/digital education, as many of them may not be digital literates.

Bench disposed of the petitions stating that it hopes the above-laid guidelines are complied with and makes it clear that all the directions are applicable to the Schools functioning in the Tamil Nadu. [R. Bharaneeswaran v. Government of Tamil Nadu, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 2301 , decided on 09-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Bench of P.V. Asha, J. allowed a petition filed by a law student granting her permission to appear for her examinations on a provisional basis subject to the question of sufficiency of her attendance being decided by her law college.

Petitioner herein was a student of 5-year LLB BA (Criminology) who was informed by the respondent law college that she is ineligible to appear for her seventh-semester examination on account of shortage of attendance. Petitioner claimed that she had got 60 per cent attendance.

Learned counsel for the petitioner Mr Syam J Sam submitted that petitioner had appeared in the internal examination for which she had paid examination fee. She had also taken up the matter for condonation, with the respondent college through Principal.

In view of the fact that the examination was scheduled to be held from 15-03-2019, the Court opined that the petitioner could be permitted to appear in the examination purely on provisional basis subject to the decision to be taken on the question of condonation of shortage of attendance.

The petition was disposed of in the above terms with a direction to the respondent to allow the petitioner to appear in the 7th semester examination, and a direction to the petitioner to submit an application for condonation of shortage of attendance through the Principal.

The Court clarified that petitioner’s appearance in the examination would be subject to the decision to be taken by the University, and the permission granted to petitioner by this Court to appear in the examination would not enable her for any equitable consideration.[Pavija Padman v. Principal, Al-Azhar Law College, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 900, Order dated 14-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Ajay Bhanot, J. dismissed the petition by stating that one illegality cannot be weighed on the illegality of some other individual.

The petitioner through his counsel Awadhesh Prasad has contended that he was not allowed to appear for the examination in the respondent university as his attendance was 38% and not the minimum set by the university which was 80% but that was not the point of his contention. He submits that one Prateek Singh with 30% attendance was permitted to appear in the examination having attendance less than him.

The Court was of the view that one illegality cannot become the basis for another illegality. An individual has to succeed on the footing of his own rights and cannot base his claim on illegality committed by an authority to favour another person. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed. [Prince Namdev v. State Of U.P.,2018 SCC OnLine All 3109, Order dated 18-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh CourtsUniversities and Educational Institutions

Kerala High Court: With reference to a pregnant student seeking exemption from the rule of requisite attendance in order to appear for the second semester examination in B.Ed course, the Court categorically held that “pregnancy was an optional choice and that cannot be a reason to permit a student to deviate from the requirements of a regular course of study, and the insistence to adhere to the course regulations cannot be termed to be a negation of the preferential treatment to women enshrined under the Directive Principles or in derogation of the values of motherhood.”

The petitioner was not permitted to appear for the examination being short of the minimum required attendance of 75% to which she contended that she had failed to attend the classes due to her advanced stages of pregancy and sought an exemption for the same.

The petitioner relied on a judgment of a Single Judge of the Delhi High Court in Vandana Kandari v.  University of Delhi, 2010 SCC Online Del 2341,  where in similar circumstances, it was held that no relaxation in attendance could be made, in accordance with the rules of Bar Council of India and Ordinance of the university. Referring to the Directive Principles, the Judge however observed that by depriving/detaining  a student on the ground of pregnancy  would not only be completely in negation of the conscience of the Constitution but also of the women rights and gender equality, akin to making motherhood a crime.

Dissenting from the abovesaid judgment, the Court held that the petitioner cannot be accorded any exemption from the minimum attendance requirement in order to appear for the examination, only on account of her pregancy. The Court emphasised upon the role of a teacher in nation building and that the requirement to attend minimum number of classes is to equip the students to discharge the professional duties with high standards, commitment and orientation in the chosen vocation, by way of lectures, seminars, practicals, as mere bookish knowledge is not the criteria of judging a professional.

Dismissing the petition, the Single Bench of Vinod Chandran, J, firmly held that the petitioner ought to have definitely adjusted her priorities when continuing a higher education, especially in a course which trains her to be a professional teacher. Pregnancy was an optional choice and that cannot be a reason to permit a student to deviate from the requirements of a regular course of  study.

Further, insistence to adhere to the course regulations cannot be termed as a negation of the preferential treatment to women enshrined under the Directive Principles or in derogation of the values of motherhood. Having chosen to expand her family she can be deemed to be on a sabbatical from regular studies, which cannot be turned to her advantage for wriggling out of the terms and conditions of a regular academic course. The Court observed that personal preferences and individual predilection should bow down to the larger public interest and societal obligations. [Jasmine V.G. v. Kannur University, 2016 SCC OnLine Ker 3221, decided on May 24, 2016]