MUMBAI: Observing that the norms pertaining to the right to free and compulsory education is only on paper, the Bombay High Court at the Nagpur seat recently took up a suo motu PIL over the lack of facilities such as no internet or electricity connection, basic infrastructure etc in most parts of Maharashtra. The bench has ordered all the authorities from various districts to file their reply in the matter spelling out the measures being undertaken to provide 24x7 electricity and internet connection for the ongoing online lectures.
The bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Anil Kilor referred to the various provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which provide for free education in nearby schools for children up to the age of 14 years.
"The legal framework is there on paper, but, this petition points out that the legal framework is not seen to be in operation in many of the districts and other areas of Maharashtra which are remotely situated," the judges said, adding, "In these areas, the school buildings are not proper, teaching staff is not available in sufficient number, the learning equipments are not provided and facilities necessary for getting education are also absent".
"In many of the areas, where all weather roads are not available, the children are unable to go to the school during rainy season," the bench noted.
The judges further noted that presently online classes are being held and not the physical ones. "But, even for this purpose, it is necessary that there is available internet connectivity and electricity supply for 24 hours and 7 days. Without this infrastructure, many of the schools which are devoid of supply of electricity and availability of internet connection for 24x7, would not be in a position to impart education effectively and continuously," the judges said.
"This petition highlights these very issues, regarding absence of such facilities as absence of constant internet connectivity, erratic supply of electricity, absence of various learning equipments and other facilities," the bench said, adding, "It would be, therefore, necessary in public interest that a serious consideration is accorded to these important issues by the both the Central and state governments and also the local authorities, which it appears to us is lacking up till now."
Further, the bench said that despite issuing notice way back in January 2021, most of the authorities haven't filed their replies.
"The replies of the authorities, in a case like this, are necessary. We direct them to file their replies which shall also include the steps taken so far by them in providing adequate learning equipments or facilities including establishing reliable network providing internet connectivity and electricity supply consistently 24x7 basis," the bench ordered.
The judges have kept the matter for further hearing after three weeks with a warning that if replies aren't filed it would order the cabinet secretary of the Union government and the chief secretary of the state to appear personally for the court.
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