Orissa High Court’s Directive: Ensuring School Safety and Accountability

Orissa High Court's Directive: Ensuring School Safety and Accountability

The Orissa High Court has taken a strict stance against the unfortunate incidents that have occurred in schools in the past. Hence, the High Court has ordered the formation of a District Education Infrastructure Safety Audit Committee in every district across the state, aimed at preventing unforeseen accidents.

Facts of the Case

The single judge bench of Justice S. K. Panigrahi was hearing a petition wherein the deceased son’s parents were seeking compensation. The boy named Kunal Pradhan tragically passed away due to injuries sustained when a toilet wall collapsed within the school premises. This incident occurred inside a school in Ganjam district in 2016.

Judge Panigrahi noted that the collapse of the toilet building wall on that tragic day was a result of sheer negligence on the part of the responsible parties, including the state authorities, who are obligated to maintain the Upper Primary School building at Ranikiari and ensure its surroundings are properly managed. The court emphasized that the safety of children should never be disregarded by school authorities. The court ordered the state authority to provide an additional ₹8 lakh as compensation, supplementing the ₹2 lakh ex-gratia amount previously declared by the district education officer.

District Education Infrastructure Safety Audit Committee

The court further ordered the constitution of a committee that shall overlook and ensure that no such unfortunate accidents occur in the near future. The committee, by the name of the District Education Infrastructure Safety Audit Committee, shall ensure that a safety audit of every school in the district is conducted and issue a safety certificate to each school authority. Moreover, the court also mandated that the committee convene at least twice a year. The sub-committee, which includes engineers, will be responsible for conducting safety audits of school infrastructure. Additionally, a grievance redressal mechanism should be established under the supervision of the panel at the block level.

Justice Panigrahi further noted that the school headmaster and the block education officer shall be held responsible if any such accidents occur. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every school headmaster to inform the Block Development Officer immediately about any unsafe walls or building issues. The BDO will then raise these concerns with the District Education Infrastructure Safety Audit Committee for swift resolution. The Collector oversees children’s safety to prevent such incidents at school campuses.

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About the Author: Hemansh Tandon