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Schools and colleges to avoid digital 'apartheid', must provide gadgets to poor: Delhi HC

By Ankita Mohanty

The Delhi high court on Friday ordered every private as well as government schools like Kendriya Vidyalaya’s to provide stable internet connections as well as gadgets to poor students for online classes, stating not doing so amounts to “digital apartheid” and hence “discrimination”

The Delhi high court on Friday exclaimed that any intra-class gap between students who are paying their fees and students belonging to economically weaker sections (EWS) or disadvantageous group (DG) amounts to discrimination and creates a class divide. The high court also ordered private as well as government schools to provide them with gadgets and stable internet connection to avoid “digital apartheid”.

The verdict is mainly directed towards schools conducting online classes through the synchronous face-to-face real-time medium in wake of Covid-19 shutdown.

The apex has also ordered that a 3 member committee be set-up within a week to dictate standard gadgets and internet package. To level with the cost attributed, the division branch of justices Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula has suggested the school could seek reimbursement from the state following Section 12(2) of the RTE Act, 2009.

The order suggests that the relationship between children and schools is of paramount importance and should be continued at all costs to safeguard the learning progress made in the past several years. “Once children step out of learning, coming back is very difficult”, the judges have warned. The apex addressed that a digital gap would leave students with a feeling of inferiority, and hence be a denial of equal protection under Article 14 and the RTE, and the spirit of the Constitution.

The order was the result of s petition filed by the organisation ‘Justice For All’ through Secretary Shikha Sharma Bagga and advocate Khagesh B Jha, seeking free android phones, laptops or electronic tablets, with packages for high-speed Internet, for EWS and DG students.

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