Focus on studies, not filing petitions, the Supreme Court today advised a Class XII student who petitioned the top court seeking resumption of physical classes in schools arguing that the coronavirus pandemic has "substantially subsided".
"Tell the child to focus on studies and not on filing petitions...I am not saying it's a publicity gimmick, but the kind of relief that has been sought is misplaced," said the two-judge bench, of DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathnam, dismissing the plea.
The top court spotlighted that different states have different rules and it can't be one size fits all, adding that children should refrain from filing such pleas.
"We can't issue judicial diktats saying all children should be sent to school...Let us leave it upon state governments. On the democratic set up. They also want children to go back to schools. Different states have different number of districts and of varying population density. We cannot take governance upon ourselves," ruled the Supreme Court.
"Higher classes have reopened. But children of younger age...sending them to school is fraught with complexities. Because mixing of so many children takes place at schools. Teachers also need to be vaccinated," the court added.
VK Paul - Member-Health of NITI Aayog, a government think tank - has said that vaccinating children is not a condition for reopening schools. He, however, added that vaccinating the staff is desirable.
The judges reminded the petitioner that the country saw a devastating and a virulent second wave that severely tested the healthcare system. "Fears of a third wave linger. We are not saying it will be as devastating but still."
Delhi, which bore the brunt of cases during the second wave, has reopened schools. Uttar Pradesh too has resumed classes. So have Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Kerala, which is battling a high number of daily Covid cases, will reopen schools from November 1.
"We have seen how in several countries schools were reopened but after repercussions they had to shut them again," the court noted.
Amar Prem Prakash, a student from Delhi, argued that he is echoing the sentiments and feelings of a large body of the student community, particularly those left behind.
"Underprivileged and voiceless children are at a disadvantaged position to avail online education," Amar submitted in his plea.
"Non-reopening of schools is proving to be not only detrimental to the interests of students, but is also tantamount to discrimination and unfair treatment. The online classes are adversely affecting physical and mental development of students and authorities should take a decision for holding physical classes as the pandemic has substantially subsided," he said in his Public Interest Litigation.