The Karnataka High Court while directing the identification of land and construction of a government school building within a period of four months said that for a successful democratic system, education is a fundamental requirement.

A Single Bench of Justice M. Nagaprasanna asserted, “It is trite that social and economic development of the nation depends upon its educated population. For a successful democratic system, education is a fundamental requirement. … The right under Article 21-A has become a mockery in the case at hand, not at the instance of any private players, but at the instance of officials of the State owing to the ever known malady of “red tapism”. … It is the work of the Committee to protect the school premises against encroachment and nuisance.”

The Bench further noted that it is the function of the School Committee to address grievances of students, parents, and teachers, to oversee infrastructure facilities for the school children, and to supervise all properties and finances of the school.

“… the Rules formulated by the State in terms of the Central enactment give certain rights to the Committee”, said the Court.

Advocate Prakash M.H. appeared for the petitioner while AGA Shwetha Krishnappa and Advocate B.J. Somayaji appeared for the respondents.

Brief Facts -

The petitioner i.e., the School Development and Monitoring Committee of the Government Lower Primary School, Agaralingana Doddi, Maddur Taluk was before the Court seeking a direction by the issue of a writ of mandamus directing respondents to take immediate action for initiation of the process of identification of land and rebuilding of the Government School in Agaralingana Doddi on consideration of representation submitted by the Committee. The said school was established 35 years ago in a small area in the village and as and when the strength of students would increase, the need for expanding the school with the required infrastructure also increased.

The Government school came within the jurisdiction of the Gram Panchayat as it was in the vicinity of Agaralingana Doddi Gram Panchayat and the State then constructed two rooms, a kitchen, and a toilet both for boys and girls in the area donated by the village members and established a new building in the said area. From 2003 to 2018, the school was functioning in full swing and 25 students, both boys, and girls were studying in the said school from first to fifth standard.

The High Court after hearing the contentions of the parties observed, “The bye-laws also empower the Committee to acquire, purchase or otherwise own or take on lease or hire temporarily certain properties that are necessary for furtherance of its functions qua the school, supervise all properties and finances of the School. Therefore, it is not that the Committee is toothless and the allegations are truthless.”

The Court further noted that the communications made between the offices clearly indicate that the right to free and compulsory education of children, particularly in the Government school, is treated with utmost callousness, which cannot be countenanced.

“The State ought to have taken immediate steps, on receipt of compensation amount in the year 2020 from the National Highways Authorities, in reply to the representation of the Committee to construct school building without any loss of time, so that the young children would not lose their education. The officers who handled these files are responsible for such apathy towards the cause of the children in the Government school. It is to be noticed that these children are wholly dependent on free and compulsory education that they are given as their fundamental right under Article 21-A of the Constitution of India and the same cannot be rendered illusory by sheer red tapism on the part of officers of the State”, said the Court.

The Court asserted that it shocks its conscience looking at the state of the children and the lackadaisical attitude of the State and that the concern of the State towards the education of a child can best be illustrated by a fact that is in the public domain.

“Therefore, the officers of the State must remember that right of every citizen matters and no child can be left behind. The issue before this Court is not “just one school”, it is “even one school”. This Court would not permit the State to reduce the fundamental right of children under Article 21-A of the Constitution of India, to a “mere rope of sand”, further said the Court.

The Court also appreciated the education system followed in Japan country saying that people around the globe tipped their hats in praise of the Japanese Government for making education even for one child a top priority.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the plea and directed that the identification of land and construction of the school building shall commence from June 1, 2023, and be completed within four months.

Cause Title- The School Development and Monitoring Committee v. The State of Karnataka & Ors.

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