SC stays Delhi HC order on gadgets, internet for poor students

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Delhi High Court verdict directing private unaided schools, along with Kendriya Vidyalayas, to provide gadgets and internet packages to students from economically weaker section (EWS) for online classes amid the pandemic.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said: “Issue notice. In the meantime, there shall be stay of operation of the impugned order of the High Court.”

The Delhi government had moved the top court challenging the High Court’s September 18 2020 order, delivered on the petition of NGO Justice for All.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, representing the Delhi government, submitted that the High Court verdict has imposed an additional burden on the government.

“We are already spending a lot on the education front,” he argued.

The bench, while observing the top court had earlier delivered a verdict on a similar issue in a case arising out of Himachal Pradesh, asked Singh to bring on record that verdict too.

The High Court had said the tuition fee does not include the cost of gadgets and internet package, and this should be provided free of cost to these students by the schools. Later, the private unaided schools could claim reimbursement from the state in accordance with provision of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

Justice for All moved the High Court seeking directions to the Centre and the Delhi government to provide free laptops, tablets or mobile phones to students from economically weaker background to access online classes.

The High Court had observed that if school decides to voluntarily provide online education, “they will have to ensure that the students belonging to economically weaker section or disadvantaged group category also have access and are able to avail the same”.

“Segregation in education is a denial of equal protection of the laws under Article 14 of the Constitution and in particular the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009,” the High Court said.