The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P D Audikesavalu gave the suggestion while disposing of a PIL petition from Nervazhi Iyakkam Trust, seeking a direction to the authorities to frame a new scheme to vaccinate students above 18, pursuing higher education along with teaching and non-teaching staff of the institutions, on an immediate basis and consequently take effective steps to re-start in-person classes.
The judges said it needs to be recorded that the petition has served out its purpose. Most students involved in higher education, together with the teaching and non-teaching staff, have been vaccinated. At any rate, those interested in getting vaccinated have had an opportunity in such regard. Several institutions have also opened and classes are being conducted.
Virtual classes had been conducted across the board. While the atmosphere of being together in a school or in a college or a university must also be experienced as much as the education imparted there, students may exercise the choice of attending classes on the virtual mode, subject to obtaining permission or in cases when they are unwell or the like, the bench held.
Reiterating on the need of a balance to be brought between virtual and physical classes, the bench said several students who spend a lot of time travelling may be spared the daily trouble by choosing which of the days to attend classes physically and which others to attend on the virtual mode. The idea of the court was to initiate a discussion to continue some form of education on the virtual mode, whether as a substitute for the physical mode or in addition to the physical mode or as a combination.
Papers had been filed by the UGC and the AICTE indicating how several courses were permitted online, while others are not. It might do well for all the nodal bodies to re-visit the matter, without being unnecessarily rigid, so that education may be more accessible, for instance to persons with disabilities, the bench said. However, since the petition had worked itself out and there were no reports yet of a further surge, though a substantial part of the festive season was already over, the bench hoped that life could return to normal, but with the lessons learnt from the pandemic in alternative forms of conducting business or education not to be forgotten, so that the virtual mode of operation could go on hand in hand with the physical mode, the bench added.