Proliferating Child Labor and Child Marriages in Rural Areas: Karnataka High Court

The state of Karnataka has witnessed a sharp increase in the cases of child labor and child marriage as observed by the Karnataka High Court. This sudden increase is a result of children below the age of 14 years not attending the school in rural area. The matter was looked after by a division bench of Justice B V Nagarathna and Justice N S Sanjay Gowda.

The division bench has ordered the Government of Karnataka to see whether the “Vidyagama” scheme which is currently suspended can be restarted within the period of next 10 days. The order was made keeping in view the number of declining cases of coronavirus. This initiative will keep the students busy and occupied.

The division bench gave its decision after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by A. A. Sanjeev Narrain, Arvind Narrain and Murali Mohan on the grounds of failure of the state government to provide compulsorily education as mentioned under Article 21-A of the Indian Constitution.

Vidyagama Scheme –

This scheme was launched because of the Coronavirus pandemic where students in group of 10 to 15 gather at a place near their stay and a teacher comes to that place and engages the students in two hours of academic activities. This scheme was launched for the students who lacked the access to attend online classes. The students are supposed to wear mask, undergo thermal screening and regularly use sanitizers to contain the spread of coronavirus but after all this effort by the government the students tested positive for coronavirus. The scheme got suspended in the month of October.

Court’s contention –

  • The pandemic is an extraordinary situation and therefore it needs extraordinary remedies to tackle the situation. The court suggested that the state government should make available laptops, tablets and computers to the needy. The funds for the same could be raised from companies under the program of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as mentioned under Section 135 of the Companies Act.
  • The court further added that if the state government approached the companies for the said cause under the CSR program, the companies and corporate sectors would come forward to make their share of contribution to ensure continuity of education for the underprivileged. The Constitution of India also envisages compulsory education till the age of 14 under Article 21-A.
  • The court also asked the state government to approach the NGOs working for the education of the underprivileged and with joint effort take some action so that education is imparted smoothly without any hindrance.
  • The court finally ordered to make a plan of action on quick distribution of low-cost laptops, tablets, computers and other electronic resources so that the education of the underprivileged should be carried out smoothly without any hindrance.

The Karnataka Government’s contention for the failure was the huge expense burden on the state to carry out even basic governance because of the pandemic. The state government that the prayer cannot be granted as huge expenses are outlaid by the state exchequer. The Disaster Management Act has been enforced in the state. In the contemporary scenario only education to students of 5th to 10th class are provided through Television mechanism. The state acknowledged that the pre-primary and primary students are not able to avail the benefit of online education.

The court further postponed the hearing of the case till December 17, 2020.