The seven-year-old schoolboy, who lost his eye during a fight with a classmate in January this year, will receive ex-gratia payment of Rs. 50,000 as stipulated by the court, as well as free lifelong eye-related treatment at any civic hospital. Municipal commissioner Swadheen Kshatriya assured the court that the ex-gratia amount would be given to Khan.
Khan, a student of New Sion Urdu School, had lost his left eye after one of his classmates jabbed a pencil into it on January 15. His mother Sherbano Khan, 32, filed a PIL in February alleging that Sohail lost his eye due to the negligence of a teacher, as medical treatment was not provided on time.
A division bench of Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice V.K. Tahilramani, on Friday, disposed of the petition observing that it was the duty of the state government and the corporation to give children free education between ages 6-14 years in a safe environment. The court has directed that in case of emergencies, parents be contacted immediately, but the child be rushed to a hospital in any case. The high court has also asked schools to tie up with nearest municipal hospitals.
The judges said, “Scope of Article 21 (right to life) and 21 (A) (right to education) of the Constitution includes prompt medical aid to a child who falls sick or gets injured during school hours, or while in the custody of teachers.”
They said providing treatment to children was as important a constitutional duty as providing them education.
Fixing liability on both the teacher and school management, the bench said, “The teacher has a duty to ensure that the child is safe and in case of breach of this important duty not only should the teacher be made liable, but the school authorities as well.”
The court has, however, rejected allegations against the schoolteacher, Ansari. Sherbano alleged that Ansari had sent the child home instead to taking him to the hospital or giving him first aid.
“Prima facie, Ansari did not show any willful negligence towards Sohail. Perhaps she did not gauge the seriousness of injury,” the bench said.
The BMC recently issued a circular with guidelines to be followed by teachers in case of medical emergencies.