The implementation shall be done in phased manner so as to avert possible conflict between school management and parents, the Bombay high court said on Thursday.
The division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Prakash Naik also directed the state authorities not to insist on prohibiting students from carrying water bottles to school as of now. The judges felt that some of the measures, such as mandating schools to provide drinking water to students and lockers to keep books in the school itself, laid down in Government Resolutions issued for reducing weight of school bags could lead to conflict between school management and parents.
Referring to the fact that the state government has not paid grant-in-aid to several schools over number of years, and therefore insistence on part of the authorities on implementing such measures may lead to conflict between school management and parents, especially in aided schools.
Government pleader Poornima Kantharia informed the bench that the government has already put in place mechanism to ensure that the measures to reduce weight of school bags are complied with. She said school inspectors and education officers in the districts have been instructed to visit schools at regular intervals and ensure that the measures are complied with.
The school education department has issued Government Resolution in November 2015 laying down measures to reduce weight of school bags. Earlier, the court was told that the GR was applicable to all schools in the state, including non-state board schools like schools affiliated to IB, ICSE, IGCSE and CBSE, and the schools were therefore required to follow the guidelines laid down by the state government for reducing school bags weight.
The court was hearing public interest litigation by city activist Swati Patil raising concern about the weight of school bags and seeking direction to implement an April 2006 government resolution, which provided for making available lockers for children if possible, a single notebook for joint subjects like algebra and geometry and keeping books for subjects like drawing, work experience, physical education and computers at school.
In July 2015, a government-appointed committee had put a cap on weight of school bags at 10 per cent of the student’s body weight. The committee report stated that children were carrying school bags which are 20-30 per cent heavier than what could be carried by children of their age, because of which around 60 per cent of students below the age of 10 suffer from orthopedic as well as stress-induced ailments.
The school education department then issued the government resolution of November 2015 fixing accountability and setting a deadline for schools to reduce weight of school bags in compliance to the court’s previous orders.