For Article 21A to become a reality, Needs of Underprivileged children to receive online education cannot be denied

The Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna, on Friday, 8 October 2021, in the case of Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private School v. Justice for All observed that In order to realize the objectives of Article 21A of the Constitution i.e. Right to Education, the needs of underprivileged students for receiving online education must be protected. 

The order came while issuing of a notice to ‘Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools’ against a Delhi high Court ruling directing the school managements to provide free gadgets and internet facilities to student belonging to Economically Backward Classes and Underprivileged Disadvantaged Groups to avail online education and fulfil their Right to Education. The High court had also directed Delhi Government to reimburse such private institutions. 

The Supreme Court also tagged a previous petition filed by Delhi Government against the abovementioned judgement of Delhi High Court and further directed Delhi Government to come out with a plan and place it before the court for the achievement of the statutory goal and aim of Right to Education. The court also directed the Central Government to join state governments in this purpose as it also has concurrent responsibility of providing funds under the act. 

Justice Chandrachud reiterated the need and necessity for provision of adequate equipment and easy access to online educational facilities to underprivileged children. The bench noted that the pandemic has led to a sharp digital divide in the population in terms of access to education. Because of this divide which has widened in Covid times, there has been a lack of access to internet and computers to students from underprivileged background posing the threat that students from underprivileged background would not be able to fully pursue their education and might be forced to drop out of education. 

The apex court bench also pointed out that the state should not avoid its duties and obligations outlined in Article 21 A of the Constitution as it lays down the right to education as a fundamental right of children of age 6 to 14. The court also mentioned that government is obligated to guarantee adequate facilities of education to students from every socio-economic background and thus must ensure virtual educational facilities to underprivileged students who cannot afford these. The failure on the part of governments to ensure access to online education defeat the entire purpose of Right to Education enshrined under Article 21A of the constitution. 

Image Credits: Jagran Josh

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