Physical Literacy Be Recognised As Fundamental Right, Amicus Tells Supreme Court In Report

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Physical literacy should be recognised as a fundamental right and all education boards, including CBSE and ICSE, must be asked to ensure at least 90 minutes of every school day to be dedicated to “free play and games”, said a report submitted in the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The report has been submitted by senior advocate and amicus curiae Gopal Sankarnarayanan in a PIL which had sought directions to the Centre and all states to make sports a part of the Fundamental Rights as well as ensure promotion of sports education in the country.

The top court, in August 2018, had issued notices to the Centre and state governments on the PIL filed by Kanishka Pandey, a sports researcher, and had later appointed Sankarnarayanan as an amicus to assist it and suggest measures to deal with the issue.

The amicus, in its voluminous report, has dealt with various aspects relating to constitutional principles and sports, and given a slew of implementable directions. “Physical literacy to be recognised as a fundamental right protected by Article 21 (protection of life and liberty) of the Constitution,” was one of the suggestions.

The Centre can be asked to establish the National Physical Literacy Mission (NLPM) to give effect to the right by establishing and implementing a responsibility matrix that includes curriculum design, compliance monitoring, and review, grievance redressal and self-correction mechanisms, said the report.

The report said as implementation of the long-term recommendations may take time, the top court, for the time being, can consider directing all school boards, including CBSE, ICSE and state boards, “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.”

It also sought a direction to ensure that all non-residential colleges and schools shall compulsorily allow access during non-working hours to neighbourhood children to use their playgrounds and sports facilities for free from the academic year commencing from 2022. “The court may direct the Ministry of Education…, to form an empowered committee or working group (committee) consisting of senior officers from key line ministries and independent experts… The committee could be headed by a court-appointed convenor, who will provide regular reports to the court,” the report said.

Sankarnarayanan, assisted by Vanshdeep Dalmia, held deliberations with many experts of the field including Indian badminton legend Pullela Gopichand. Pandey, in his PIL, had sought a direction to the Centre and state governments not to discriminate between the education and and sports and to treat sports as part of the curriculum.

The government has to strive for promotion of sports education, sports values and sports culture as part of education, it said. The PIL said that sports should be included among academics from “nursery to post-graduate level and to fundamental right to education.

“Sports should be included in the curriculum from nursery to secondary level and education with sports subject should be imparted to the child from the very beginning of education. Children’s talent and sports aptitude should be tested from the elementary school days itself so that the talent of a child can be improved and developed through training and education,” the plea said.

There should be a compulsory provision for sports in the school budget which should be utilised for sports activity only. Also, there should be one post of sports secretary in students unions, it added.

“Issue direction to constitute a high-level committee of parliamentarians, academicians and sports persons to make appropriate suggestions to amend in the Constitution of India to include sports as a Fundamental Right in Part III, especially in Article 21A of the Constitution of India,” the PIL said.

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