Written by: Riya Ganguly (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
The Telangana government via its order memo dated 24 August 2021, directed the reopening of all public and private schools in offline mode, thereby, directing a revival of normal physical classes.
Bala Krishna Mandapati V. State of Telangana & Ors
In the backdrop of this order memo, a writ petition was filed by B. Krishna Mandapati, challenging the said memo and praying to stay the implementation of the same insofar concerning the primary and pre-primary schools of Telangana. The petitioner contended that the state government, without ensuring any proper SOPs has recklessly directed the reopening of schools. It was also contended that it would be extremely difficult for the little children of primary and pre-primary classes to wear masks and maintain social distancing. Given the expected third wave of Covid and the absence of a vaccine for people under 18 years of age, these school children could get exposed to the virus and act as potential and asymptomatic covid carriers, thereby, endangering their health and that of their family members.
The respondent on the other hand contended that various pressing issues coupled with recommendations of several committees perpetuated the need to resume offline classes. Such issues included lack of digital resources such as high-speed internet connection, mobile phones, etc. for online classes; lack of financial resources; missing of mid-day meal by poor children which in the result is gravely affecting their health; etc. The opening of schools in physical mode was thus, seemed an essential tool to improve the psychological and overall wellbeing of children.
Observation by the Court
The division Bench of the Telangana High Court comprising of Justice M. S. Ramchandra Rao and Justice T. Vinod Kumar has held that there is a need to balance both of these conflicting but equally important concerns of both the parties and thereby ordered a slew of directions. It included:
- No child of Telangana studying in any class/school (public or private) shall be either compelled by the school management to attend the physical classes or subject to any penalty for not complying with the same.
- School management shall not be subject to any penal provision by the State in the absence of compliance with the impugned memo.
- It shall be upon the will of school management to have either online or offline classes or a blend of both.
- The school cannot absolve of its liability by obtaining any undertakings from parents if children get infected with the virus while in school
- It was directed to the state authorities to chalk out the SOPs which shall be followed by all school managements who wished to conduct offline classes and the same should be followed scrupulously.
- The opening of government and social welfare residential schools stayed until the required steps taken by the government in the face of the present pandemic was placed and perused by the SC.
The Court extended the scope of its above order to all school-going children of all public and private schools instead of only primary and pre-primary students as contended by Petitioner. The Court directed the respondents to file the counter affidavit and adjourned the matter for hearing on 4th October 2021.