Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Forces must vacate schools: HC

TNN 25 November 2009, 04:40am IST

KOLKATA: Imparting education to students can't wait. Security forces camping in schools and a college in four blocks of Maoist-hit West Midnapore have been asked to move out. Calcutta high court wants them to vacate the institutions within five weeks, by December 30. The government has also been asked to resume mid-day meal in schools, which was suspended after the jawans took over.

The order comes as a reprieve to thousands of students in these areas who had taken out a protest rally with their teachers during chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s visit to West Midnapore earlier this month.

State advocate-general Balai Ray argued that such an arrangement had to be made to tackle an extraordinary situation in which lives are at stake. But a division bench of acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice Prosenjit Mondal said the right to life should not come in the way of the right to education.

The acting Chief Justice refused to believe the situation in Lalgarh is worse than that during the Kargil war. Ray pleaded that the situation in Lalgarh is different from Kargil because the army had fought in the latter while security forces have been engaged in Lalgarh to protect villagers. “Which is more important — protecting lives or giving them education?” Ray asked.

However, the bench held that education can’t suffer because security forces had been sent to protect lives. It refused to listen to the state’s plea that it would be difficult for the government to vacate the educational institutions within such a short period.

The bench told Ray the government has enough time since the security forces trooped in sometime in June and initially gave only a week’s time to vacate the schools and college. Sensing the mood, Ray prayed for elbow room to give the marching orders, arguing that classes will remain suspended for some time during winter.

The bench also directed the state government to foot the electricity bills during this period so that the school authorities are freed of the burden.

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