State policy appointing government school teachers on the basis of merit upheld; Students have a right to be taught by meritorious teachers under RTE Act

Madhya Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench comprising of CJ Hemant Gupta and Vijay Kumar Shukla, J. while hearing a batch of writ petitions against government’s shifting policy pertaining to appointment of guest teachers in government schools, held that the aim of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) is to impart education to students and not to protect teachers.

The petitioner was appointed as Samvida Shala Shikshak in a government school and had been, henceforth, working as a guest teacher in the government school. The government issued a circular containing shifting policies vide which petitioner was being replaced by another guest teacher. Aggrieved by the said circular, the petitioner preferred the instant writ petition before this Court.

The petitioner’s submission was two-fold, one being that he was not being permitted to work in government school without assigning any reasons, therefore, and the second submission being that the process of selection of guest teachers in primary school was not done online.

The respondent submitted that as per RTE Act, there has to be a Primary School within a radius of one kilometer and Middle School within a radius of three kilometers, therefore, guest teachers were engaged in Primary and Middle Schools. The shifting policy circular was issued to ensure a transparent method for engagement of guest teachers on merit so that students studying in the government schools are taught by meritorious teachers. Since the government’s online portal for vacancies and application for guest teacher did not evoke many registrations online, therefore the process of collection of applications was also conducted offline.

The High Court rejected petitioner’s contentions against State policy stating that students are entitled to quality education directions that have the effect of students being taught by non-meritorious teachers could not be issued. However, it was observed that the policy of replacing guest teachers with another set of guest teachers was improper and unjustified since guest teachers are engaged to meet out emergent situations and their continuance from year to year cannot operate as a rule.

It was observed that the right of petitioners to be engaged as guest teachers was an equitable right and the same could not operate against students’ right to education. The object of right to education under RTE Act is not to protect the teachers but to grant education to students; and if a child has to study, he is entitled to the best possible teacher to teach him.

The writ petition was disposed of by issuing directives for framing a policy to fill posts of teachers in the State in a phased manner and directing that the vacancies of guest teachers be filled up on the basis of merit list. [Saurabh Singh Baghel v. State of Madhya Pradesh, WP No. 18935 of 2018 decided on 11-10-2018]

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