Asking senior advocate Ravi P Mehrotra to tell his young client, class XII student Amar Prem Prakash, to concentrate on his studies, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and B V Nagarathna said it is imperious on the part of a student in Delhi to demand immediate decision by governments to reopen physical schools in a time bound manner when the entire country does not now whether or not the third wave of pandemic is on the anvil or not.
“It is a misplaced PIL if not a publicity seeking petition. The distribution of severity of Covid pandemic is not the same in all the states. Does the situation in Kerala match with that of West Bengal or for that matter Delhi? How the Supreme Court can issue an omnibus order directing reopening of schools,” it asked.
The governments are answerable for the decisions they take and they are taking decisions for gradual reopening of schools keeping in view the gradual improvement of the Covid situation, the bench said. “We in the judiciary have no scientific knowledge about the behaviour of the Covid-19 virus. We do not know whether or not the third wave would come and what would be its severity. How can we issue an omnibus order directing reopening of schools? Can we dictate to the governments,” the bench asked.
“As we read from the newspapers and various other sources, the third wave may not be as severe as the second wave. The vaccination is going on apace. But, we cannot equate the pandemic situation in Kerala with that of Karnataka or West Bengal or for that matter Delhi. Some states, depending on the waning of the pandemic, are gradually reopening the schools. Let us leave the decision in this regard to the state governments. Even within a state, the pandemic situation may not be uniform. Some districts may have a high infection rate while in others it may be mild. What should be done about reopening of schools, must be left to the governments,” the bench said.
The court also said that the government is still mulling over scientific data, which is evolving, on the vaccination of children. “The teachers need to be fully vaccinated before uniform reopening of the schools. All that the governments alone can decide, not the courts,” the bench said.
“When it involves children, the government must tread with great care. And, the courts must be even more careful as they neither have scientific knowledge nor data before it,” it said and allowed the advocate to withdraw the petition, which had said that prolonged deprivation of schooling is casting a huge psychological scar on the students and also depriving the children of the mid-day meal.