The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain a petition filed by class XII students seeking direction to the Centre and states to consider and take a time-bound decision with regard to the physical re-opening of schools and conduct of offline teaching.
A Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud said it cannot direct states to reopen schools for physical teaching.
“Complexities of the matter is such that we will have to leave it to the governments. Supreme Court can’t take over governance. Let governments take these decisions,” the Bench said while asking the petitioner’s advocate to withdraw the plea.
As the apex court was not inclined to hear the case petitioner withdrew the plea.
“We do not have scientific data nor knowledge of COVID-19 incidence in the country. The governments are wary of exposing children to possible infection. We cannot be running the administration of governance and decide these issues,” Justice Chandrachud said.
During the hearing, the Bench said it doesn’t know where the COVID-19 spike is, in which district incidence of COVID-19 is high. “Of course, children need to go back to school, but it has to be decided by the states,” said Justice Chandrachud.
The top court added that governments have taken a decision for the phased reopening of schools and these are plans that should be left to the government.
“Courts have to be very careful. There is no data. Schools were opened abroad also, we know what happened. We don’t want to name. Children have also to be vaccinated. You may withdraw this petition,” Justice Chandrachud told advocate Ravi Prakash Mehrotra, appearing for the petitioner student.
Mehrotra contended that because of the prolonged period, the schools were not opened and the mid-day meals, mental health, everything got affected.
Amar Prem Prakash, a class XII student from Delhi, had raised the issue of deprivation and ill-effects, both psychological and actual, of school children being kept away from attending their schools physically and having to join their classes virtually instead.
The petitioner said he is aggrieved by the indecision and vacillation on the part of the Central Government and several State governments and Union Territories in the country, including Delhi, in the matter of re-opening of schools and resumption of physical classes with adequate safeguards.
“If public places can re-open for people who may or may not have been vaccinated, regulated by COVID-19 appropriate behaviour, it merits serious consideration that schools and educational institutions must be given priority in re-opening,” the plea said.
The plea urged that Centre, states and UTs to take time-bound decisions on the re-opening of schools in their territories with adequate safeguard and depending on the condition and severity of COVID-19 in their respective areas.
“A holistic and considered decision with regard to re-opening of the schools will not only end the uncertainty and speculation in this regard but also assuage the sentiments of the students’ community in the country,” stated the petition.
It further sought a hybrid mode of schooling in the States which have decided to re-open educational institutions, with the option of online and offline education, making it optional and non-compulsory for students who do not want to attend a physical school.