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Judicial Review During The Covid-19 Pandemic Concerning The Field Of Education

Introduction of the area of study
COVID - 19 originated in Wuhan (China) and within a few months, became a global threat, declared a pandemic by WHO. It shook the whole world at a drastic level. This pandemic hadn't simply affected the health and life of humans but also affected diverse sectors, be it industry, transportation, commercial enterprise, agriculture, and many more. Likewise, it affected the education sector also.

Almost all over the world, all the schools, faculties, universities, and educational institutions were shut down to prevent the hazard of spreading this fatal virus. This was not the first time the world had faced a pandemic. History has seen many other pandemics as well, but none had affected the education system to the degree to which COVID-19 had affected.

Due to the closure of all educational institutions from primary to university level, education came to a halt, hampering the growth of students. As an attempt to put life in motion, the concept of e-learning became prevalent. Every academic organization was engaged in presenting schooling through online portals and was choosing numerous techniques and systems to offer schooling to every scholar.

But there was yet another issue, a lockdown was imposed in the whole country. Academic sessions were late, examinations of various courses were pending, and some universities were issuing guidelines for admission to courses. The world was not at all prepared for this disaster and management was inexperienced in conducting the exams, classes, and admissions without physical interaction. This whole chaos led to tons of cases and writ petitions in various courts all over India.

This research work specializes in the role of judicial review during COVID - 19 in the Education Sector, pinpointing various judgments of various high courts and the Supreme Court and its actual implementation on the ground level, including the problem faced by students, teachers, and educational institutions during the lockdown and way forward.

Literature review
To have a better understanding of the problems, a review of the relevant literature was conducted. The government must see that sufficient measures are taken, concerning protecting and promoting education during difficult times. The scope of education and judicial review is enormous, and this in itself is understood in many different ways (UNICEF, Indian Case Study, Situation Analysis on the Effects of and Responses to COVID-19 on the Education Sector in Asia, October 2021).

 The ground reality in India differs from the judiciary's perspective on many aspects ("Role of virtual learning amidst covid - 19: challenges & recommendations" Ekta Sood).

Research problem
At the onset of 2020, the covid-19 shook the whole world terribly affecting almost every sector including education. Being a developing country, India faced a lot of issues in maintaining a serene environment. For better management, various guidelines, directions, and co-circulars were issued by the judiciary and government. However, it lacked in the actual implementation.

The tentative assumption on which the study proceeds is that the "judiciary had put adequate efforts in mitigating the hindrances on education".

Research questions/ objective
The research aims to view the efforts of the judiciary in cases concerning education during the covid-19 pandemic. Firstly, we'll focus on the impact of covid-19 on the education sector and to what extent it hindered the growth of students in India. Then, we'll see some judicial trends and seek to find out whether the judiciary was capable of maintaining the balance during the state of chaos accelerated by covid. Further, we'll seek help from surveys to check the ground realities of judicial pronouncements. And lastly, we'll conclude the paper.

The research paper has been divided into six Chapters. Chapter one titled introduction, which has been added in the beginning, introduces the scope of the study and includes a detailed research methodology listing out the literature review, hypothesis, etc.

Chapter two contextualizes the impact of covid-19 on the education sector in India. Chapter three analyses the challenges faced by students, teachers, and institutions during a crisis. Chapter four mentions the response of institutions to covid-19. Further, Chapter five presents some judicial trends during covid-19, and Chapter six talks about the ground realities of judgments and orders passed by officials. Chapter seven concludes the paper.

Impact Of Covid-19 On Education In India

The terrifying impact of COVID-19 has shaken the whole world to a drastic level. Governments around the world had to permanently close educational institutions to make an attempt to stop the threat of the spread of COVID-19, same goes for the Indian government as a part of national lockdown has shut down all educational institutions which affected the development of all the students' from school going children to postgraduate[1].

The deteriorating effects of the lockdown in India on schools and children are proportionally higher than in any other part of the globe. According to U-DISE[2] Report of 2016-17 on school education in India, India has 1.4 lakh schools in which 2.01 lakh children were enrolled[3]. Most adversely impacted are students who had to wait for their examinations. Due to their prolonged uncertainty around the upcoming exams, students taking the Board exams were particularly affected.

 Specifically, the hardship faced by students of class 12, be it in mental capacity or the stress they were being part of because of a dilemma about their future study and the continuous delay in examinations and results. However, most of the state governments had to promote all the students of Classes 1-9 and 11 to the next class as the best possible way to tackle the situation.

The closure of schools witnesses the gap in learning among children. Hence, online classes had to become the necessity savior of the hour and almost every educational institution had to shift their operations to online teachings which too had its own disadvantages ranging from social isolation to a lack of communication skills development. The ongoing conferences, functions, seminars, and workshops in the universities and colleges came to halt which were an important part of college life.

Teachers are too within the circle of affected people. Undoubtedly, virtual learning has been tried in India, but it has been concentrated in some affluent hands, not even teachers who were asked to get used to it in a very short span, rarely trained for online classes. For virtual classes, no doubt, one must have full knowledge of technology, knowledge of how to use various platforms, and how to navigate the internet.[4]

Challenges Faced By Students, Teachers & Educational Institutions During Virtual Learning In Lockdown Period

A worldwide health emergency crisis called COVID-19 forced the closure of schools, colleges, and universities. The effects of this outbreak disrupted education; hence virtual learning was chosen as a way to continue education. Virtual learning, however, was a setback to students' academic and social life as well as instructor productivity in such a limited amount of time.

Online education began, but there were many mistakes and uncertainties for everyone. Stress and worry are common during these tumultuous times since both teachers and students are dealing with a variety of difficulties while completing their virtual sessions. These are the significant obstacles to the effectiveness and quality of virtual learning.
  1. Students encountered numerous difficulties while learning online while under lockdown. Some of them are:
    1. Less classroom interaction
    2. Students feel that online learning programs are more stressful than physical classrooms. They may find regular classes stressful but with friends and classmates, it feels much easier and manageable. They are feeling left out and are stuck alone at home without friends.
    3. Online learning programs, in the opinion of students, are more stressful than traditional classroom settings. While they may find regular classes unpleasant, they discover that they are far more tolerable and easier when they are alongside friends and classmates. They feel excluded and are confined to their home without friends.[5]
    4. Another significant issue a student had was internet connectivity. There is good connectivity for students who reside in cities or adjacent areas, but there are challenges for those who live in rural locations. Consequently, it caused virtual classes to be interrupted.
    5. Due to economic disparities, not all students can afford computers, laptops, and internet connections. This presents another difficulty for students. Such students are unable to participate in online classes. However, many kids come from low-income families and lack access to cutting-edge technology.[6]
  2. Teachers:
    1. Teachers claim that they have to respond to numerous questions from parents. Parents constantly ask questions about fee waivers or about any file that is too large to transmit.
    2. Teachers' working hours have been increased. They need to manage household chores, attend live classes, send out assignments and lectures all the time, and respond to parents' demands for help. Due to the need to transmit work, provide comments, and respond to inquiries, they are now utterly dependent on their gadgets.
    3. Another issue a teacher has is that most students are not accustomed to this method of instruction. Teachers must put in a great deal of work to prepare lectures in a way that students would find simple to understand.[7]
    4. Teachers, especially those employed in private positions, worry about losing their jobs or even seeing their pay reduced.
    5. Teachers are struggling to keep pupils focused and try to keep them away from any distractions because students can easily become side-tracked when learning online because they frequently utilize social networking sites.
    6. In India, virtual classrooms are nothing new, but the majority of teachers are still not tech-savvy, making it exceedingly challenging for them to adjust to this cutting-edge teaching approach. It is difficult for teachers to convert educational materials into digital form at such short notice due to the pandemic.
    7. Internet access is a significant problem for both students and teachers.[8]
    8. Sharing large files in virtual courses is proving to be exceedingly difficult for teachers. Zoom, Skype, and Google are only used by prestigious institutions. Due to economic disparities, it is exceedingly challenging for a low-income student to purchase data plans, because downloading large files uses a lot of time and data.
  3. Educational Institutions:
    1. Funded institutions are experiencing financial difficulties. These educational institutions are completely reliant on student fees.
    2. Within a short time after the lockdown was declared, educational institutions had to close and migrate to online platforms. However, doing so takes large investments, and without money, it is difficult for all educational institutions in India to begin virtual lessons.[9]
    3. Until educational institutions prepare a qualified staff to handle such new issues, it is exceedingly difficult for a teacher to maintain discipline and guarantee 100% attendance in a virtual classroom. To address the difficulties of virtual learning, educational institutions must train their staff and faculty[10].
    4. Even if schools, colleges, and universities must reopen, their infrastructure is insufficient for them to follow the COVID-19 guideline, which calls for maintaining social distance through sanitation in libraries and classrooms. It is a significant difficulty for educational institutions.
    5. Managing hostels and canteens presents a significant additional difficulty for colleges and universities.[11]

Education Sector Response To Covid-19 And Supported Continuity Of Learning:

  1. Part of the reopening process:
    In India, the response plan for education continuity and the reopening of schools was being managed at the state level[12]. The Ministry of Home Affairs Order dated 30 September 2020[13] directed the states to open the school in a phased manner, except in red-zone areas. It also stated that:
    • Online mode was preferred as a mode of teaching as the pandemic was prevalent when this direction was issued.
    • Attendance must not be enforced and must depend entirely on written parental consent.
    • It was the school's responsibility to keep an eye on students who choose not to attend physical classes and ensure that they'll remain in touch with teachers through online mediums.
    According to the Ministry of Education guidelines, schools were not allowed to conduct formal assessments for at least two to three weeks after reopening. Even when they do, the pen-and-paper format of testing was discouraged for students across all grades to "ensure emotional well-being of the students. Assessments in the form of role plays, choreography, class quiz, puzzles and games, brochure designing, presentations, journals, portfolios, etc., may be preferred over routine pen-paper testing."[14]
  2.  With the reopening of the schools:
    Following almost more than a year of school closure, teachers and principals from several states had a lot of concerns about the condition of the education sector. According to the Young Lives Report,[15] Teachers anticipated that school closings would have a long-lasting impact on student's ability to learn. Teachers also recognized the categories already at risk as being weaker students and students from the poorest households.

    Because enrolment will be impacted by both the economic consequences of the pandemic and the actual school closures, head teachers in private schools were especially worried about students leaving. Sadly, it appears that concern over the effects on disadvantaged learners was frequently not matched with specific support for these groups. Instead, emphasis was placed on students approaching important exams.

    The state-specific approach with regard to maintaining safe operations once schools had reopened is unclear based on the papers examined. Despite some states, like Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh have created their own regulations for safe school reopening based on the guidelines developed by the central government, other states have not.[16] According to the justices of the High Court of Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, "It is a matter of concern whether the teachers and students would follow the COVID-19 guidelines."[17]

    They had given the UP-district administrations the order to frequently monitor all the private and public schools to ensure that the rules were being obeyed. This decision was made in response to a public interest petition that asked the court to take action to stop the infection's spread in Uttar Pradesh.

Judicial Trends During Covid-19 Regarding Education

Sreelekshmi S. v. State of Kerala[18]:

According to the Kerala High Court, salaries for both teaching and non-teaching workers must be paid each month during a lockdown. The relevant High Court dismissed the petitioner's argument that no costs should be assessed during the lockdown time[19].

Independent Schools Assn. v. State of H.P.[20]:

The following are the directives that were issued by the Himachal Pradesh High Court:
  • Other than the tuition fees, parents cannot be charged any other fees.
  • Only courses offered by online learning classes are subject to a tuition cost.
  • Other monies, such as the building fund, repair fund, sports fund, computer fees, co-curricular fees, etc., may be postponed during the lockdown period.
  • No transportation fees may be incurred during the lockdown.
  • No student will be denied access to online lessons or reading materials if they are unable to pay the charge because of the financial hardship caused by the lockout.[21]

3. Rahul Sharma v. State of Gujarat[22]:

Universities must comply rigorously with the rules set forth by the Central and State Governments in order to maintain social distancing and sanitary conditions on the campuses. Many universities in Gujarat have postponed the semester-ending exam to a later date, and only a small number of them are considering the possibility of an online exam. All Universities, however, cannot choose online exams due to infrastructure, connectivity, and other related challenges in remote places. Universities planning to conduct physical exams must create clear instructions and guidelines that follow the Central Government's criteria.

The petitioner is pleased with how the COVID-19 epidemic is continuing to alter normalcy in novel ways. The disputed resolution and the actions adopted by the respondent States in the wake of it are only the first steps in establishing a balance between the risks and hazards posed by COVID19 and, with all due prudence, returning people's lives to normalcy.

The Hon'ble Court is being questioned whether the High Court should provide the State Government with any specific instructions on how the Universities throughout the State of Gujarat would conduct examinations. The High Court stated that it is now up to the individual universities to make the final decision regarding how to conduct the physical test without endangering the lives of the students. However, if the situation worsens, the universities will need to move the exam to a different date. The examinations are conducted with zero danger of any kind.[23]

Rakesh Kumar Agarwalla v. National Law School of India University[24]
For law school admissions for the academic year 2020�2021, CLAT was scheduled for May 10, 2020. However, the surge of COVID-19 cases led to a tighter national lockdown, which caused the CLAT Examination to be postponed to September 28, 2020. According to the NLSIU curriculum, students must complete a minimum number of working days throughout each trimester, which runs from July through September, November through February, and March through June.

The Executive Council of NLSIU devised a plan to have their own entrance exam, to be called NLAT 2020, in order to avoid Zero years. The Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) is the sole way that NLSIU is required by Supreme Court order to administer their entrance exam.[25]

Ground Reality

In total, 488 government school employees and 1158 parents (from both private and public schools) from five different states-Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh- were asked questions in the study. This status report provides information on the difficulties in obtaining education during the lockdown as well as the problems teachers are dealing with. In this section, we'll be going through the extent to which the aforementioned judgments of the Supreme Court and the various High Courts were implemented.

These judgments were passed not only to relieve the economic strain but also to mitigate the mental stress faced by students due to the repeated postponement of their exams. Being negligent of the gravity of the matter the institutes chose otherwise, whose revelation is done by the data mentioned below, which has been collected from various newspapers and local references.

Education costs for private schools: Education costs for private schools account for a significant portion of household income. Among all the parents surveyed, half of them said that they spent over 20% of their income on their children's education in private schools, while a quarter said they spent between 11% and 20% and the last quarter said they spent up to 10%.

This result is in line with data from NSSO (2014), which demonstrates that, for a family with a single earner, the average outlay for private schooling (for two children) accounts for 20% of household income[26]. While 54% of students from the top quintile (based on per capita family expenditure) attend private schools, the corresponding statistic for the bottom quintile is 12% (Central Square Foundation, 2020). This huge out-of-pocket expense excludes the poorest children[27].

Fees increase when schools are physically closed and in lockdown Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh, the states that participated in the study, issued directives urging schools to not raise their prices or put pressure on parents to make fee payments during the lockdown. Odisha requested that schools take fee reduction/deferral into consideration in an appeal from the CM's office.

Parents reported having to pay increased costs for the upcoming academic year, according to 39% of parents, despite notifications and requests from state governments instructing private schools to consider reducing/deferring tuition during the lockdown[28].

Over 50% of parents in Uttar Pradesh and Odisha had to pay higher tuition. Odisha did not release guidelines prohibiting fee increases, although UP had. Despite this, a sizable portion of parents in both states were required to pay increased tuition. This demonstrates the need for improvement and stricter enforcement of private school regulations to safeguard parents' rights, particularly at a time when over 80% of households have experienced an income loss.

During the lockdown, parents were compelled to pay fees. Only 8% of parents said that their children's schools had pressured them to pay fees in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh, where this was explicitly prohibited. In contrast, 35% of parents in Odisha reported feeling pressured by the school to pay fees during the lockdown despite the absence of any clear restrictions. This demonstrates unequivocally that the first step in defending parental rights is the establishment of explicit government regulations or standards[29].

Providing education during the lockdown in private schools, the delivery of education had been disrupted for almost 60% of the students. WhatsApp was the most common method used when education was "delivered," as stated by 57% of parents, followed by YouTube, Zoom, and phone calls between the teacher and the student (22% each)[30].

It is consistent with other findings, such as the exploratory survey by the Central Square Foundation (2020) on the influence of COVID-19 on private schools, that WhatsApp is used as the major method of education "delivery." Parents might choose from a variety of options for this checklist-style question.

This approach gives us an idea of the proportion of schools actively "delivering" education as opposed to those that are only disseminating knowledge. Without delving into the educational validity of various mediums, it is clear from the list that only one medium, Zoom, can support online "instruction," with WhatsApp, YouTube, and phone calls being the only other options for sharing information or providing supplemental resources.

Children thus obtained materials or instructions via phone calls, WhatsApp, YouTube, and barely a fifth of the households provided any type of formal teaching[31]. Despite this, nearly twice as many parents (39) reported fee increases by schools during the epidemic than reported an organised method of education delivery.

Availability of Midday Meals: The Supreme Court ordered governments to continue the availability of midday meals (MDM) despite the shutdown of schools in March (Rautray, 2020). Odisha, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand are the other states that make up the study.

All of these governments had issued GOs regarding the distribution of MDM (Angad, 2020; Bajpai, 2020; Mishra, 2020; Mohanty, 2020; Ravi, 2020). In spite of this, the poll reveals that 35% of kids missed their midday meals. Only 8% of the remaining 65% received cooked meals; in contrast, 53% were given dry rations, and 4% were given cash (DBT) in place of the MDM. Of the states surveyed, Chhattisgarh performs the best, with over 90% of children receiving midday meals.

Uttar Pradesh performs the worst, with 92% of children being denied midday meals (in any form). A likely reason for this could be the method of MDM delivery; in Chhattisgarh, rations are delivered to households, whereas in UP, the government has prioritized delivering a food security allowance in place of the MDM[32].

Children from Dalit and Adivasi communities are most at risk because they depend on MDM for nutrition, with 1.15 million children at risk of malnutrition as a result of the interruption of midday meals (Bhowmick, 2020)[33].

The mental health of students: A total of 324 college students participated in the study, of whom 180 (55.6%) were male and 144 (44.4%) were female. After assessment of the psychometric scales, it was found that of the 324 students, 223 (68.8%) had high fear of COVID-19, 93 (28.7%) had moderate to severe depression, and 167 (51.5%) had mild to severe anxiety.[34]

"The face of the truth is covered by golden vessel;
Oh human, uncover it for the vision of truthful dharma"[35]

The onset of the year 2020 was really harsh for all the countries across the world. It changed the dimensions of conventional education. Not only did this crisis affected students, instructors, and parents, but also educational institutions. Students use tools like Skype, Hangout, Zoom, Webex, and Google Meet to complete their education while staying in constant contact with their teachers.

This time, both students and teachers have a lot of opportunities to sign up for a variety of courses through SWAYAM, Coursera, etc. to expand their thought processes. But the fact that no one was ready for the complete switch to the virtual world created many problems. The problem was not just the digital divide or lack of physical education but lack of environment and students closed to four walls of their home, away from their friends also gave a toll on their mental health.

Various government schemes like mid-day meals in schools for providing nutrients to students were also abruptly stopped. Indeed, the judiciary and government through various circulars and guidelines tried to control the situation. But the reality was different.

Despite all the guidelines, fees of educational institutions increased, parents were forced to pay fees, and staff and non-teaching staff lost their jobs. Hence, the judiciary did an excellent job on its behalf but better implementations of the directions were required.

  • Judicial Power and Judicial Review by Anirudh Prasad and Chadrasen Pratap Singh Edition: 1st Edition 2012, with Supplement, 2022
  • Judicial Activism in India author: B S Tyagi, 2012
  • Coronavirus (covid-19): a book about the corona virus by Shailesh Rathod 2020
  1. Deepali Kasrekar and Gayatri Wadhavane, "Impact of COVID-19 on Education System in India", Latest Laws. Com, June 12, 2020.
  2. District Information System for Education "Flash Statistics of 2016-17"(April,2017).
  3. Aparajita Sharma, "COVID-19 Lockdown Lessons and the Need to Reconsider Draft New Education Policy", The Wire June 12, 2020.
  4. Itika Sharma Punit, "A for Annoyed, B for Burdened : What a Sudden Shift to Online Classes Means for India's Teachers", Quartz India, June 17, 2020.
  5. Rarkryan P. Angdhiri, "Challenges of Home Learning During a Pandemic through the Eyes of a Student", The Jakarta Post, June 15, 2020.
  6. Eram Agha, "Learning Rebooted: Online Education during Covid-19 Lockdown Puts Spotlight on India's Digital Divide", News18, June 16, 2020.
  7. Press Trust of India, "From Technological Queries to Distress Calls, Teachers Struggle with Challenges Posed by Lockdown", NDTV Education, June 15, 2020.
  8. Namrata Vardhaman, "Challenges Faced by Teachers and Students During Covid-19 Lockdown", AMC, June 15, 2020.
  9. India Today Web Desk, "How to Solve the School Fee Collection Issue During Lockdown and Impact on Teaching Staff", India Today, June 17, 2020.
  10. Sunil Rai, "Rebooting Education : E-Learning Rises to the Challenge", Deccan Herald, June 15, 2020.
  11. M. Channa Basavaiah, "Challenges to Higher Education Post Lockdown", The Hans India, June 17, 2020.
  12. UNICEF "Update 12 SAR Education COVID-19 Response", (Oct, 2020)
  13. Ministry of Home Affairs, (last visited on July 29, 2022)
  14. Ministry of Health, "SOP/Guidelines for Health and Safety Protocols for Reopening of Schools" (October 2020)
  15. Young Lives, Policy Brief 35, "Are Schools in India Ready to Support Students During COVID-19" (October 2020)
  16. (last visited on 03-11-2022)
  17. (last visited on 03-11-2022)
  18. 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 2494
  19. Id.
  20. 2020 SCC OnLine HP 1267.
  21. Id.
  22. Writ Petition No. 88 of 2020, decided on 7-7-2020 (Guj).
  23. Id.
  24. 2020 SCC OnLine SC 761.
  25. Id.
  26. N Jain, "E-learning: As schools reopen, EWS students struggle to keep up" Millennium Post July 2, 2020.
  27. A Angad "In Jharkhand, social audit finds nearly half the people didn't get full lockdown ration" The Indian Express, June 28, 2020.
  28. (last visited on 03-11-2022)
  29. M Bertrand, K Krishnan & H Schofield, "How are Indian households coping under the COVID-19 lockdown, 8 key findings" Blog, 11 Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation 2020
  30. S Dewan, "We invest in tech, then expect people to catch up. And women get left out of Digital India", The Print, , February 25, 2020.
  31. Central Square Foundation "State of the Sector Report on Private Schools in India" (November 2020)
  32. N Bajapi, "UP govt to disburse ration, food security allowance to school children" The New Indian Express, May 30, 2020.
  33. N Bhowmick, "Covid-19 lockdown means 115 million Indian children risk malnutrition" New Scientist, August 12, 2020.
  34. "Impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of college students in India: cross-sectional web-based study" , available at: (last visited on 06-11-2022)
  35. Ishavasyopanishad

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