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HC instructs Telangana government not to reopen government residential schools with hostel facilities

No student should be forced to attend physical classes, says the Bench

Telangana High Court on Tuesday instructed the State government not to reopen its residential schools with hostel facilities, including those being run by Social and Tribal Welfare departments, for next four weeks. Earlier, the State government decided to reopen all government and private schools and conduct physical classes for all standards from Wednesday.

The government issued a memo to this extent a week ago. Challenging this memo, a citizen Mandapati Bala Krishna filed a PIL plea. Describing the government’s decision “arbitrary” and an example of violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, the petitioner sought to set aside the memo.

After hearing contentions of the petitioner’s counsel and Advocate General B.S. Prasad, the bench ordered that no government residential school with hostel facility should be reopened till further orders. The bench said that it wanted to know what medical infrastructure and backup facilities were pout in place to protect students of these residential schools in the event of students contracting COVID-19.

When the AG requested the Bench to permit residential schools too to conduct physical classes along with other private and government schools, the Acting CJ said the government need not be in a hurry. “You have waited for so long. We directed you to stop for four more weeks only to understand what sort of precautions were being taken to to protect students in the backdrop of spread of COVID-19”.

The Acing CJ made it clear that other government and private schools (where students are day scholars) can conduct physical classes as decided by the State government from Wednesday. The bench categorically said that “no student should be compelled by the school management (government or private) to attend physical classes” if his or her parents were not inclined to do so.

The school managements were instructed not to insist for any undertaking from the parents of the students while sending the latter to physical classes. “It would be deemed that such undertakings were taken under duress. Such undertakings would have no legal sanctity”, the Bench made it clear.

The bench also instructed the government not to initiate any penal action against any private school for not reopening schools from Wednesday. “The State officials should prepare Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for conducting physical classes” the Bench said.

These SOPs should be given wide publicity through print and electronic media. The bench ordered that authorities should file details of the pediatricians available in each district to attend on children, availability of beds in hospitals for children and other medical infrastructural facilities made available in the event of children contracting Coronavirus.

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