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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Gujarat HC takes suo motu cognisance of collapsed school building report, slams minister’s ‘rash’ reply

🔴 The division bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and NR Mehta also directed the state government to "immediately undertake the construction of a new school".

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad, Vadodara |
Updated: December 18, 2021 5:34:20 am

Taking suo motu cognisance of a report by The Indian Express on students attending classes in the courtyard of a house after the collapse of a government primary school buidling in Chhota Udepur, the Gujarat High Court on Friday termed Education Minister Jitu Vaghani’s remarks over the incident “rash” and “shameful”. The division bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and NR Mehta also directed the state government to “immediately undertake the construction of a new school”.

According to school Head Master Mitthal Rathwa, the building of Vagalwada government primary school in Chhota Udepur had collapsed on the night of September 21, 2020 due to its dilapidated condition. The students of various classes, who belong to the remote villages, were gathering at the home of the mid-day meal cook to attend the offline classes.

Rathwa also said that following the High Court direction, a team of officials of the district administration, including the sub-divisional magistrate visited the village for a ground report. The district administration has instructed the headmaster to shift the children to a classroom in a nearby government school.

“The administration has decided to allot us a classroom in a nearby government primary school, which is about three kilometres from this village… We have requested them to arrange transportation as most of the children do not have any means to travel on their own. They have assured us that a vehicle will be provided so that the teachers can gather the 26 students and take them to the classroom in the school from tomorrow,” Rathwa told The Indian Express.

The Indian Express had, on Thursday, reported that Vaghani, while fielding a question over the delay in reconstruction of the school building, said in Vadodara that there was nothing unusual about primary school students sitting outside the collapsed school during the winters and he himself had studied the same way.

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Taking cognisance of the report, the court noted, “We expect a high constitutional functionary like a minister of a cabinet rank to exercise some restraint while making such rash statements in public. We take a serious note of this entire episode.”

By way of interim relief, the court directed the state to “immediately undertake the construction of a new school and see to it that it is completed within a period of six months from the date of the receipt of the writ of this order.”

The bench issued notice to the state government, returnable for January 10, 2022, and directed the registry to register the litigation as a suo motu public interest litigation.

On the next date of hearing scheduled for January 10, 2022, the bench has directed that an officer not below the rank of additional secretary of the education department, “shall personally remain present before the court of the…Chief Justice with an appropriate report in this regard”.

The court also directed a responsible officer not below the rank of additional secretary from the roads and buildings department to remain present before the court on the returnable date.

Meanwhile, Chhota Udepur District Primary Education Officer (DPEO) S L Pawar told The Indian Express that following the direction of the HC, the taluka primary education officer of Chhota Udepur has been asked to conduct an inquiry into the matter and submit a report.

Pawar said, “We have immediately sent the TPEO to conduct a ground reality check. They will return from the village and prepare a report, after which we will decide the next step.”

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