SC seeks Centre, State governments’ reply on making ‘physical literacy’ a fundamental right



The Supreme Court has asked the Centre and States to respond to a report recommending sports to be expressly made a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The report submitted by the court’s amicus curiae, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, suggested that the “narrow” phrase ‘sport’ be replaced by ‘physical literacy’, which is a term “firmly established as a right in the leading sporting nations of the world”.

A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao has directed the Centre to respond to the report’s view to establish a ‘National Physical Literacy Mission to “give effect to the right by establishing and implementing a responsibilities’ matrix that includes curriculum design, compliance monitoring, and review, grievance redressal and self-correction mechanisms” which starts at the school level to groom children for various sports.

“All school boards including CBSE, ICSE, State Boards, IB, IGCSE should be directed to ensure that from the academic year commencing 2022-2023, at least 90 minutes of every school day will be dedicated to free play and games,” Mr. Sankaranarayanan’s report in the apex court recommended after extensive expert consultations.

The report suggested that State governments ought to ensure that from the current academic year, “all non-residential colleges and schools should compulsorily allow access during non-working hours to neighbourhood children to use their playgrounds and sports facilities for free, subject to basic norms of identification, security and care”.

The document, which has been placed on record in the Supreme Court, opined that 180 days time should be given to educational institutions, which hosts students for more than 10 hours a week, to publish and disseminate to parents/guardians a ‘Physical Literacy Policy’ and create an internal committee to address specific cases where there is a failure in responsibilities to deliver the right to physical literacy of students.

“The policy will include the institution’s commitment to a ‘no-child-left-behind’ approach that ensures that the institution’s physical literacy activities are designed and delivered in a manner that is inclusive of students with physical and mental disabilities, girls, students from marginalized economic and social groups,” the report said.

Mr. Sankaranarayanan asked the apex court to direct the Ministry of Education, through the Department of School Education and Literacy, to form an empowered committee of senior officers from key ministries and independent experts from the fields of education, health, disability, sports, and movement. The committee could be headed by a court-appointed convenor, who would provide regular reports to the court.

“The Committee will be required to devise a strategic blueprint for actualising the fundamental right,” the report said.

Among other myriad suggestions, the report asked the court to direct the MeitY, supported by NITI Aayog, to create a dashboard with real time data on mapping of available playgrounds and open spaces and their utilization rates, availability and qualifications of physical education teachers, curricula, timetables, and equipment in educational institutions across the country.

The dashboard may be integrated with an online dispute resolution mechanism supported by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.

The report was filed in a PIL moved by Kanishka Pandey to amend the Constitution to make sports a fundamental right and amend the Directive Principles of State Policy to include an obligation to “strive for promotion of sports education”. It had urged that sports should be transferred to the Concurrent List to facilitate cooperative work between the Centre and states.

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