Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The division bench of AM Khanwilkar* and Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ has issued “general uniform direction” of deduction of 15 per cent of the annual school fees for the academic year 2020-2021 in lieu of unutilised facilities/activities and not on the basis of actual data school-wise.

The said direction was issued in order to obviate avoidable litigation by over 36,000 schools and to give finality to the issue of determination and collection of school fees for the academic year 2020¬21, as a one-time measure.

On 09.04.2020, an order was issued by the Director, Secondary Education, in the wake of COVID¬19 pandemic, directing the private schools recognised by the Primary and Secondary Education Departments to defer collection of school fees for a period of three months.

Before expiry of the period noted in the aforementioned order, the Director, Secondary Education issued another order on 07.07.2020 which read as

“The fee chargeable by non¬government schools from the students/guardians after 15th March, the applicable fees at present   and   payment   of   advance   fee   was   deferred   for   3 months, as per the direction of the State Government the said deferment is extended till the reopening of the schools. In case of non-deposition  of fees  during the  said  period, name of such student will not be struck off from the rolls of the school.”

On 07.09.2020, Rajasthan High Court directed the school Authorities to allow the students to continue their studies online and also to deposit only 70 per cent of the tuition fees element from the total fees chargeable for the period from March 2020 in three instalments.

On 28.10.2020, the Director of Secondary Education , Rajasthan issued an order stating that the   schools which were/which are imparting online teaching then capacity building fees can be charged from such students which will be 60% of the tuition fees.

The Supreme Court noticed that the Director, Secondary Education had no authority whatsoever to issue direction in respect of fee structure determined under the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2016 including to reduce the same for the academic year 2020¬21 in respect of private unaided schools. However, this does not give licence to the School Management to be rigid and not be sensitive about aftermath of pandemic.

“Undeniably, an unprecedented situation has had evolved on account of complete lockdown due to pandemic. It had serious effect on the individuals, entrepreneurs, industries and the nation as a whole including in the matter of economy and purchasing capacity of one and all. A large number of people have lost their jobs and livelihood as aftermath of such economic upheaval. The parents who were under severe stress and even unable to manage their day¬to-day affairs and the basic need of their family made fervent representation to the school Management(s) across the State.” 

The Court explained that, in law, the school Management cannot be heard to collect fees in respect of activities and facilities which are, in fact, not provided to or availed by its students due to circumstances beyond their control. Demanding fees even in respect of overheads on such activities would be nothing short of indulging in profiteering and commercialisation.

Further, due to complete lockdown the schools were not allowed to open for substantially long period during the academic year 2020-21. Resultantly, the school Management must have saved   overheads and recurring cost on various items such as petrol/diesel, electricity, maintenance cost, water charges, stationery charges, etc.

“Indeed, overheads and operational cost so saved would be nothing, but an amount undeservedly earned by the school without offering such facilities to the students during the relevant period.  Being fee, the principle of quid pro quo must come into play.”

However, no accurate (factual) empirical data has been furnished by either side about the extent to which such saving has been or could have been made or benefit derived by the school Management.     The Court, hence, assumed that the school Management(s) must have saved around 15 per cent of the annual school fees fixed by the school/adjudicated by the Statutory Regulatory Authorities for the relevant period.

“… we would assume that at least 15 per cent of the annual school fees would be towards overheads/expenses saved by the school Management. Arguendo, this assumption is on the higher side than the actual savings by the school Management of private unaided schools, yet we are inclined to fix that percentage because the educational institutions are engaged in doing charitable activity of imparting and spreading education and not make money. That they must willingly and proactively do. Hence, collection of commensurate amount (15 per cent of the annual school fees for academic year 2020¬2021), would be a case of profiteering and commercialisation by the school Management.”

DIRECTIONS

(i) The school Management of the concerned private unaided school shall collect annual school fees from their students as fixed under the Act of 2016 for the academic year 2019-20, but by providing deduction of 15 per cent on that amount in lieu of unutilised facilities by the students during the relevant period of academic year 2020¬21.

(ii) The amount so payable by the concerned students be paid in six equal monthly instalments before 05.08.2021.

(iii) Regardless of the above, it will be open to the concerned School Managements to give further concession to their students or to evolve a different pattern for giving concession over and above those noted in clauses (i) and (ii) above.

(iv) The school Management shall not debar any student from attending either online classes or physical classes on account of non¬payment of fees, arrears/outstanding   fees   including   the   installments, referred to above, and shall not withhold the results of the examinations of any student on that account.

(v) If any individual request is made by the parent/ward finding it difficult to remit annual fees for the academic year 2020¬21 in the above terms, the school Management to consider such representation on case¬to¬case basis sympathetically.

(vi) The above arrangement will not affect collection of fees for the academic year 2021-22, as is payable by the students of the concerned school as and when it becomes due and payable.

(vii) The school Management shall not withhold the name of any student/candidate for the ensuing Board examinations for Classes X and XII on the ground of non-payment   of   fee/arrears   for   the   academic year 2020-21, if any, on obtaining undertaking of the concerned parents/students.

[Indian School, Jodhpur v. State of Rajasthan, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 359, decided on 03.05.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice AM Khanwilkar 

Know Thy Judge| Justice AM Khanwilkar

For appellants: Senior Advocate Pallav Shishodia, Shyam Divan,  Puneet Jain and Romy Chacko

For State of Rajasthan: Senior Advocates Dr. Manish Singhvi and Devadatt Kamat

Mr. Sunil Samdaria, in­person

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has issued directions to ensure education of children in Child Care Institutions which has suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amicus Curiae Gaurav Agrawal suggested the Court that infrastructure available in the Child Care Institutions for providing education to children needs to be assessed. On the basis of the assessment of the infrastructure, Child Welfare Committees and the Juvenile Justice Boards through the District Child Protection Units shall inform the State Governments about the deficiencies in the infrastructure, stationary/books etc. It is necessary to ensure that extra classes should be held for children residing in Child Care institutions to make them holistically prepared to take the examinations in March-April, 2021.

Amicus Curiae also highlighted that State of Telangana is providing extra classes for children in Child Care Institutions. The other states should also follow the lead of the State of Telangana and ensure that such extra classes be provided for students/ the children restored to the families due to coronavirus pandemic.

“2,27,518 children were in the Child Care Institutions before the pandemic and 1,48,788 children have been restored to their families/guardians and other foster care homes, as a result of the pandemic. Educational needs of those children who have been handed over to their parents or guardians should be assessed. They might not have attended schools due to various reasons including the financial distress of the parents.”

Further, State of Tripura is following a practice of providing financial aid of Rs.2160 per month to the parents or guardians of the children who have been restored from the Child Care Institutions.

Taking note of the aforementioned submissions of the amicus curiae, the Court issued the following directions

  1. State governments to provide the necessary infrastructure, stationary, books, printers along with the other equipment that is necessary for children to quantitatively attend online classes on the basis of the recommendation made by the District Child Protection Units, within 30 days from the date of the order.
  2. State Government shall also ensure that the required number of tutors are made available for teaching the children in various Child Care Institutions. Extra classes, if necessary, should also be taken for the children to help them in preparing for the final examinations to be held next year.
  3. District Child Protection Units shall inform the District Legal Service Authorities about the progress made in the infrastructure being provided to the Child Care Institutions and the functioning of online classes periodically i.e. once in a month.
  4. District Child Protection Units to make an assessment of the children who are restored to their families or guardians or foster homes during the lockdown by taking the assistance of other statutory bodies like the Child Welfare Committees and Juvenile Justice Boards.
  5. District Child Protection Units to enquire about the financial position of the parents or guardians of the children. If it is found that the children are not being sent to school in view of the financial disability of their parents or guardians, the District Child Protection Units are directed to recommend to State governments to grant financial aid to the parents or guardians concerned. On such recommendation being made by the District Child Protection Units, the concerned authorities of the State governments are directed to release an amount of Rs.2000/- per month for each child, to the parents or guardians of the children in distress, which shall be used for the purpose of the education of the children.
  6. District Care Protection Units to ascertain the number of children who are restored to their families due to lockdown in a particular geographical locality and organize a guide or a teacher for each group of 25 children.

The Court will now hear the matter in February, 2021.

[IN RE: CONTAGION OF COVID 19 VIRUS IN CHILDREN PROTECTION HOMES, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1026, order dated 15.12.2020]

Law made Easy

Under the Constitution


This right guarantees free and compulsory education for children between the age of 6 to 14 years in India under Article 21A of the Constitution of India.

  • Free education’ means that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his or her parents to a school, shall be asked to pay any kind of fee/charges/expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
  • Compulsory education’ casts an obligation on the appropriate Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age groups.

Under the Right to Education Act, 2009


Focus:

  • Providing elementary education to a child (6-14 years) who does not/could not go to school. Such child to be admitted in age appropriate class and has the right to receive special training.
  • Seeks to provide children right to seek transfer from a government or govt. aided school to another such school in order to complete elementary education. Such child also has right to immediately seek a transfer certificate (TC).
  • Mandates non-minority private unaided schools to reserve at least 25% of their entry level seats for children belonging disadvantaged sections to create a more integrated and inclusive schooling system.
  • Mandates the appropriate government and local authorities to provide for children’s access to elementary schools within the defined area or limits of the neighbourhood.
  • Lays down the responsibilities of the State and Central government for carrying out provisions of the act.
  • Constitution of a School Management Committee (SMC). The role of this committee to manage, monitor and support a school in its functions.
  • Indicates that within 3 years from the date of commencement of the act, the appropriate government and local authority shall insure that the Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) is maintained in each school.

Ensures:

  • Compulsory and free education for all.
  • Special provision for special classes.
  • Minimum standards.
  • Admission for all.
  • Quality and quantity of teaching.
  • All-round development.
  • By the people, for the children.

Objectives:

  • Ensure that every child below the age of 14 gets free and compulsory education.
  • Curb the problem of illiteracy.

Ensure personal growth and in turn growth of the country.


This Article is a part of the ‘Know Your Rights’ series by Centre for Clinical Legal Education, Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

“It needs no emphasis that the right to education guaranteed in terms of Article 21A of the Constitution would envisage quality education being imparted to the children which in turn, would signify that the teachers must be meritorious and the best of the lot. Any process which applied equally to all the candidates and was designed to garner the best talent, cannot be called arbitrary or irrational.”

Supreme Court: In the case relating to filing up of 69000 vacancies of Assistant Teachers in the State of Uttar Pradesh, the bench of UU Lalit* and MM Shantangoudar, JJ has dismissed the petitions challenging the fixation of 65-60% as minimum qualifying marks for Assistant Teacher Recruitment Examination- 2019 (ATRE-2019) and the eligibility of B.Ed. candidates for the posts of Assistant Teachers under the U.P. Basic Education (Teachers) Service Rules, 1981. While doing so, the Court said,

“If the ultimate object is to select the best available talent and there is a power to fix the minimum qualifying marks,… we do not find any illegality or impropriety in fixation of cut off at 65-60% vide order dated 07.01.2019.”

Resultantly, the Court has directed that the State Government shall now be entitled to fill up all the concerned posts in terms of the result declared on 12.05.2020. 


Relevant Facts


  • On 26-5-1999, a Government Order was issued by the State of U.P. for engagement of Shiksha Mitras (Parateacher) in order to provide universal primary education and to maintain teacher student ratio in primary schools by hiring persons who were not duly qualified at lesser cost as against the prescribed salary of a qualified teacher.
  • On 19-6-2013, a GO was issued giving permission for appointment of Shiksha Mitras on the post of Assistant Teachers in primary schools without having the eligibility and qualifications in terms of the RTE Act, 2009. Consequential executive orders were issued for absorption of 1,24,000 graduate Shiksha Mitras and 46,000 intermediate Shiksha Mitras.
  • On 27.05.2018 ATRE-2018 was conducted. In the results, 41,556 candidates were declared to have qualified with qualifying marks of 45- 40% out of which, 40296 candidates applied for counselling and were selected for appointment on 13.08.2018. About 4500 candidates were added to this number after re-valuation process.
  • On 06.01.2019 ATRE-2019 was conducted without there being any specification of minimum qualifying marks.
  • On 07.01.2019, an order was passed by the Special Secretary to the State Government: prescribing the minimum qualifying marks in respect of ‘Assistant Teacher Recruitment Exam 2019’ for Primary Schools run by Uttar Pradesh, Basic Siksha Council.
  • On 24.01.2019, 23rd Amendment to 1981 Rules was published. Consequently, Graduates having 50 per cent or more marks and holding degree of Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) became eligible for posts of Assistant Master and Assistant Mistresses in Junior Basic Schools in the manner laid down in the Amendment. The concerned provisions in 1981 Rules dealing with eligibility of such candidate were given retrospective effect from 01.01.2018.

What the Supreme Court said


On eligibility of B.Ed. candidates

For maintaining standards of education in schools, the NCTE is specifically empowered to determine the qualifications of persons for being recruited as teachers in schools or colleges. In addition to regulating standards in “teacher education system”, the NCTE Act also deals with regulation and proper maintenance of norms and standards in respect of qualifications of persons to be recruited as teachers.

The eligibility or entitlement being already conferred by Notification dated 28.06.2018, the amendments to 1981 Rules were effected only to make the statutory regime consistent with the directives issued by the NCTE. The right or eligibility was not conferred by amendments effected to 1981 Rules for the first time but was only to effectuate the statutory regime in tune or accord with NCTE directives. Theoretically, even if such statutory regime was not made so consistent, the concerned candidates holding B.Ed. degrees could still be eligible and could not have been denied candidature for ATRE-2019. Pertinently, the performance in ATRE is one of the indicia that goes into making of quality points which in turn have to be considered at the stage of preparation of merit list for selection. By the time the actual process of selection was undertaken, the statutory regime in the form of 1981 Rules was perfectly consistent and in order.

Hence, the B.Ed. candidates were rightly allowed to participate in the instant selection process.

On 65-60% cutoff

Difference in nature of ATRE-2018 and ATRE-2019

In ATRE-2018, the percentage of qualifying candidates was thus 38.83%. On the other hand, the percentage of qualifying candidates in ATRE-2019 was 37.62%, which was almost equal to that in ATRE-2018. However, the number of qualified candidates in ATRE-2018 was less than the number of vacancies; while even with the cut off at 65-60% the number of qualified candidates in the present selection was far in excess of the number of posts. This happened because,

“Though the syllabus and subject wise allocation of marks were identical, the nature of ATRE-2019 was entirely different. The questions in ATRE-2018 were descriptive in nature and the duration of examination was three hours. However, those in ATRE 2019 were multiple choice – objective questions and the duration of examination was also different.”

Hence, there could be different parameters regarding minimum qualifying marks for ATRE-2019.

Candidates appearing in ATRE-2018 and ATRE-2019 formed different classes

All the candidates including Shiksha Mitras who appeared in ATRE 2018 formed one class while those who appeared in ATRE 2019 formed another class. There cannot be inter se connection or homogeneity between candidates appearing in one examination or selection with those appearing in another examination or selection.

“The basic norms of ATRE-2019 must be tested on their own and cannot depend upon para meters or norms on the basis of which ATRE-2018 was held. Otherwise the integrity of the examination process will get defeated and nullified.”

65-60% cutoff was fixed to garner best available talent

Even with 65-60% cutoff, the percentage of qualified candidates in ATRE-2019 was 37.62% which was quite close to 38.83% in ATRE-2018 and the number of qualified candidates was far in excess of the vacancies required to be filled up. Thus, cut off at 65-60% level in the present case, by itself cannot be termed as incorrect or illegal exercise of power. Those Shiksha Mitras who were meritorious and took the examination with seriousness that it deserved, certainly succeeded in securing marks more than the cut off of 65-60%. Hence,

“… the fixation of cut off at 65- 60% which was intended to select the best of the candidates cannot be termed as exclusionary nor was it intended to deprive the Shiksha Mitras of the advantage of weightage for experience.”

State Government is empowered to determine minimum marks “from time to time”

In terms of Rule 2(1)(x) of 1981 Rules, qualifying marks of ATRE are such minimum marks as may be determined ‘from time to time’ by the Government. If this power is taken to be conditioned with the requirement that the stipulation must be part of the instrument notifying the examination, it would lead to illogical consequences. On one hand, the relevant Rule requires passing of ATRE while, on the other hand, there would be no minimum qualifying marks prescribed. Hence, the Government must be said to be having power to lay down such minimum qualifying marks not exactly alongside instrument notifying the examination but at such other reasonable time as well.

Therefore,

“If the Government has the power to fix minimum qualifying marks ‘from time to time’, there is nothing in the Rules which can detract from the exercise of such power even after the examination is over, provided the exercise of such power is not actuated by any malice or ill will and is in furtherance of the object of finding the best available talent.”

Third chance to Shiksha Mitras

Even though the challenge by Shiksha Mitras was dismissed, the Court directed that one more opportunity shall be afforded to Shiksha Mitras to compete in the next selection. The Court left it to the discretion of the State Government to consider the manner and the modalities in which such opportunity can be availed of.

[Ram Sharan Maurya v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 939, 17.11.2020]


*Justice UU Lalit has penned this judgment

Advocates who appeared in the matter

For the Shiksha Mitras: Senior Advocates P.S. Patwalia, C.A. Sundaram, Rakesh Dwivedi,  Rajiv Dhawan, Nidhesh Gupta, V. Shekhar, S. Guru Krishna Kumar, Meenakshi Arora, Dinesh Diwedi, K.T.S. Tulsi, Mr. Jayant Bhushan, and advocates Gaurav Agrawal and Tanya Agarwal.

For State: Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati

For B. Ed./BTC Candidates: Senior Advocates H.N. Salve,  R. Venkataramani,  Pallav Shishodiya, K.V. Vishwanathan and V. Mohana

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: Krishna S. Dixit J., issued a writ of certiorari to quash the impugned orders and sent back the issue under challenge to the state for reconsideration in a time-bound manner, failing which penalty to be imposed on defaulting state officials.

The facts of the case is such that the petitioner is a registered Educational Trust grieving against the denial of permission for establishing a School for imparting education at the level of 1st to 8th Std in English medium, vide Endorsement dated 31-05-2019 issued by the 2nd respondent-DDPI, it’s Revision Petition challenging the same having been negatived by the Government vide order dated 3-2-2020.

Counsel for the respondent-State submitted that the petitioner-Trust has not produced the conversion order of the land in question to the non-agricultural purpose. It was further submitted that the text of the letter dated 02-03-2018 only indicates conversion potential of the land and not the conversion as such to educational purpose. It was also submitted that there is noncompliance of Rule 3(4) of the Karnataka Educational Institutions (Classification, Regulation and Prescription of Curricula etc) (Amendment) Rules, 2018 that reads as

“Every private body of persons desiring to establish and maintain an educational institution imparting pre-primary, secondary and higher secondary education or any part thereof shall own or have on lease for a minimum period of thirty years following minimum contiguous extent of land for the building and playground of the educational institution with permission from relevant authorities to use for educational purposes:”

 Counsel for the petitioners- Trust submitted that land having been converted to the non-agricultural user (industrial) by the Tumkur District Deputy Commissioner’s order dated 23-5-1986, now figures in Yellow Zone in the statutory Revised Master Plan [2031], formulated under the provisions of Sections 9 & 14 of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, 1961, hence there is no requirement of one more formal conversion order that otherwise was warranted in terms of Section 95 of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964. It was further submitted that the Tumkur Urban Development Authority constituted under the provisions of the Karnataka Urban Development Authorities Act, 1987, vide letter dated 20-7-2018 has specifically stated that the land in question can be used for educational purpose in view of its inclusion in the Approved Comprehensive Development Plan (Revised- II)-2031.

 The Court observed that the land under challenge is taken by the petitioner-Trust on lease basis for a period of thirty years vide registered Lease Deeds is not in dispute; the said land having been converted to industrial purpose way back in May 1986 has no longer retained its agricultural character; such a converted land can be put to residential use because of inclusion per se in the Comprehensive Development Plan and residential purpose necessarily includes educational ones.

The Court further observed that the available facilities in the school building in question certainly do not fall short of those obtaining in any Government schools in the locality infact what is lacking should be pointed out to the petitioner so that it can be improved in a time-bound way; that exercise strangely has not been undertaken and hence it leaves an impression that somehow the powers that be, are working to ensure that this school shall not come up, for an indefinite period of time and that the reasons for the same remaining inscrutable, give scope for assuming ulterior motives.

The Court relied on Bhartiya Sewa Samaj Trust v. Yogeshbhai Amblal Patel, (2012) 9 SCC 310 and emphasized on enactment of Right to Education Act, 2009 and 86th Amendment to the Constitution which introduced Article 21A and Article 51A (k) of Constitution of India to remark:

“….the importance of these new provisions can be understood by the observations of the Apex Court to the effect that without Article 21A, the other fundamental rights are rendered meaningless; without education, a citizen may never come to know of his other rights; since there is no corresponding constitutional right to higher education, the fundamental stress has to be on primary and elementary education, so that a proper foundation for higher education can be effectively laid..”

The Court further reprimanded and stated that the school education in the country inter alia suffers from the limitation of coverage; there are not enough number of government/public schools to cater to the societal need; a corresponding statutory duty is cast on the private schools to make the fundamental right to free education at the primary level, meaningful; if the applications for grant of permission to establish such schools are mindlessly declined, that would muffle the inner voice of the aforesaid constitutional amendments that are complemented by legislative instruments.

The Court before disposing off the petition observed that there exists a certain difference between a requisition for the grant of permission for founding a school and an application for the grant of excise license for opening a wine shop.

In view of the above, petition is allowed and impugned order stands quashed.[Nexgen Education Trust (Regd.) v. State of Karnataka,  2020 SCC OnLine Kar 1647, decided on 21-10-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Law made Easy

“Child” as defined by the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 is a person who has not completed the age of fourteen years.

Children, by will or by force are employed to work in the harsh conditions and atmosphere which becomes a threat to their life.

No child (below the age of 14 years) shall be employed or permitted to work in any occupation or process.

Hiring children below the age of 14 years for any kind of work, other than in certain family-based work, is a cognizable offence and will attract a jail term of upto 2 years. Adolescents between the age of 14 – 18 years cannot be employed in any hazardous occupation.

Hazardous Employment

Hazardous child labour is work that is performed by children in dangerous and unhealthy conditions that can lead to a child being killed, injured or made ill as a result of poor safety and health standards or employment conditions. This is referred to as hazardous child labour.

Examples of hazardous employment are-

  • Anything that can cause spills or trips such as cords running across the floor or ice
  • Anything that can cause falls such as working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area
  • Unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts that a worker can accidentally touch
  • Electrical hazards like frayed cords, missing ground pins, improper wiring
  • Confined spaces.

Rules for employing Adolescents

The Child Labour (Prevention and Regulation) Amendment Act allows adolescents to work in non-hazardous occupations and processes. If an adolescent is employed, the following conditions must be satisfied by the employer:

  • The period of work on each day should be fixed in a manner that no period or work would exceed three hours.
  • The adolescent must have an interval for rest for at least one hour after working for three hours.
  • The total time spent working by an adolescent cannot exceed 6 hours in a day, including the time spent in waiting for work.
  • Adolescents cannot be employed during the hours of 7PM to 8AM.
  • Adolescents cannot be made to work overtime.
  • Adolescents cannot work in more than one establishment, at anytime.
  • Adolescents must be provided in every week, a holiday of one whole day.

Punishments relating to child labour

  • For parents/guardians There shall not be any punishment in case of a first offence by parents/guardians. In case of a second and subsequent offence, the penalty prescribed is a maximum fine of Rs. 10,000.
  • For employer- Any offence committed by an employer which is punishable under the Child Labour act has been made a cognizable offence. Accordingly, the authorities can file a first information report and commence investigations into the offence without a court order and can arrest without a warrant.
  • PenaltyEmployment of a child or permitting a child to work in any occupation or process in contravention to the statute would lead to Imprisonment of: 6 months to 2 years Fine: Rs.20,000 to Rs. 50,000 or both.

How can we eliminate child labour from our society?

Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development Child labour can limit the time and energy children spend on education. Many forms of child labour are prohibited in international standards. While child labour can be an obstacle to education, at the same time education is instrumental in the prevention of child labour.  Through education, parents and children alike become more aware of its benefits, and the harm that child labour can cause.  And access to education helps reduce poverty, one of the root causes of child labour. It can be concluded that education is the key to abolish child labour across the globe.

Role/Importance of education or Right to Education Act in eliminating child labour

The RTE act is not innovative law. Universal adult franchise in the act was opposed since most of the population was illiterate. Article 45 in the Constitution of India was set up as an act: “The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years”

  • The Act makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools. It requires all private schools to reserve 25% of seats to children from poor families (to be reimbursed by the state as part of the public-private partnership plan).

STOP Child Labour- It promotes jobs & protects people.


*This Article is a part of the ‘Know Your Rights’ series by Centre for Clinical Legal Education, Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, Vineet Saran and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has allowed the 3 accused in the Dr. Payal Tadvi suicide case to complete their Post-Graduation from the same college.

“While balancing the competing claims, in our view, the Appellants must be allowed to go back to their courses of study otherwise the pendency of prosecution against them will add further penalty in the form of prejudicing their career. Any such adverse impact will negate their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.”


Background of the case


Dr. Ankita Kailash Khandelwal, Dr. Hema Suresh Ahuja and Dr. Bhakti Arvind Mehare (the appellants), after completing MBBS course were pursuing Post Graduate Degree course (M.D.) in Gynaecology and Obstetrics in Topiwala National Medical College, Mumbai. Dr. Payal Tadvi was also student of Post Graduate Degree Course (M.D.) in Gynaecology and Obstetrics in the same college and was junior to the appellants. On 22.05.2019, Dr. Payal Tadvi committed suicide by hanging herself in her room and in the complaint lodged by her mother, it was stated that Dr. Payal Tadvi was harassed by the Appellants and that they were directly responsible for the suicide committed by her. Hence, a case was registered under Section 306 read with Section 34 IPC, under the provisions of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities), Act, 1989 and also under Section 4 of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act, 1999, following which the Appellants were suspended by the Dean of the Hospital and the College. The Appellants were arrested on 29.05.2019.

“During the course of investigation, statements of more than 100 witnesses were recorded by the Crime Branch. After completion of investigation, charge sheet running into 1200 pages was filed and the matter is still at the stage of consideration whether the charges are required to be framed or not.”

In the present case, the Supreme Court was called upon to consider the competing claims in such a way that the individual rights of the Appellants to pursue their courses of study are secured and, at the same time, the conduct of prosecution also runs smoothly and without any interference and possibility of witnesses getting won over.


Key points considered by the Court


  1. The Appellants before have completed two years out of three years’ of course.
  2. The Appellants do not appear to be original residents of Mumbai and, as such, it cannot be said that they or their families have deep-rooted presence in Mumbai.
  3. As noticed in Sumit Mehta v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2013) 15 SCC 570 , if the law presumes an accused to be innocent till his guilt is proved, the Appellants as presumably innocent persons, are entitled to all the fundamental rights including the right to liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and are entitled to pursue their course of study so long as exercise of said right does not hamper smooth conduct and progress of the prosecution.
  4. The stand taken by the State through the affidavit filed by the Deputy Secretary, Medical Education and Drugs Department, Government of Maharashtra, is that the Appellants can complete their Post Graduate course in future after conclusion of the trial. The Court, however, found this stand incorrect and said that even a convict is allowed to have academic pursuits while undergoing sentence and develop his potential as a human being to the fullest.

“The State apparatus must facilitate such pursuits rather than hamper any attempts in that behalf. The Appellants, therefore, by any standard, are entitled to continue their courses of study subject to the caveat expressed earlier.”

  1. It is a matter of record that the statements of all material witnesses have been recorded under Section 164 of the Code. In fact, the High Court went to the extent of ensuring that such statements are recorded so that witnesses could not be won over by the Appellants after they were enlarged on bail. Therefore, the apprehension that the witnesses could be influenced is not quite correct.
  2. The majority of witnesses to be examined by the prosecution appear to be in permanent employment of the College and the Hospital. It will be difficult to imagine that three lady doctors who do not otherwise belong to Mumbai will be able to influence any such witnesses by their mere presence in the College and the Hospital.
  3. The Appellants require to put in the last year of their course and the actual period that they need to undergo by way of training is only nine months.

“It is, thus, a question of putting those nine months in one scale and see whether the other scale becomes so weighty that the request to allow them to pursue their courses must be rejected.”


Directions


Considering the matter in its entirety and especially when the Appellants have to undergo training under the same guide and in the same institution where they were registered, the Court was of the opinion that ends of justice would be met if the Appellants are permitted to go back to the College and the Hospital to pursue their studies, subject to the following conditions:-

  1. The Appellants shall not, in any manner, influence or even attempt to influence any of the witnesses.
  2. The Appellants shall present themselves on each of the dates that the matter gets posted before the Trial Court, unless their presence is specifically exempted.
  3. If it is permissible, and subject to the appropriate permission from the Dean of the College and the Hospital, the Appellants may not reside in the quarters allocated to the residents in the College and the Hospital. However, if the registration as Post Graduate students requires the Appellants to be full time residents in the College and the Hospital, then the Appellants shall do so.
  4. The Appellants shall avail study leave so that their actual period of stay inside the College and the Hospital gets reduced to the maximum possible level.
  5. If there be any holiday or vacation and it is permissible for the residents to be outside the College and the Hospital, the Appellants shall avail that and keep themselves away from the Hospital and the College.
  6. If there be any untoward incident or even likelihood of such incident, the concerned authorities shall immediately report to the Police Station of the area and ensure that the life and liberty of everyone including the Appellants are well protected.

Making clear that the Appellants shall be permitted to pursue their courses of study regardless of the Order of Suspension dated 27.05.2019, the Court directed that

“This Order shall come into effect at the beginning of the second term of academic session 2020-2021 and if such term has already begun, it shall come into effect from 12.10.2020.”

[Ankita Kailash Khandelwal v. State of Maharashtra, CRIMINAL APPEAL Nos.660-662 OF 2020, 11.10.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: While allowing the instant petition seeking for issuance of a writ of mandamus directing the State Government to take all necessary steps to establish a Government Lower Primary School at Elambra village in Manjeri Municipality, expeditiously; the Division Bench of S. Manikumar, CJ, and Shaji P. Chaly, J., directed the State Government to sanction the establishment of Government LP School, at Elambra within a period of three months. The Bench strictly observed that the people of Elambra have been fighting a long battle of 35 years with the might of the State Government in order to establish a lower primary school- a demand that is completely in consonance with the law and the Constitution and there is a conspicuous failure on the part of the State Government in acknowledging this demand.

The petitioner, a resident of Elambra, filed the instant PIL. As per the facts, the village is located on the outskirts of Manjeri Municipality and is a socially and educationally backward area. There are no primary schools within the radius of 3 km and during the last 30 years, the local residents have been making continuous effort to get a new Government LP School at Elambra. Several representations were submitted before the concerned authorities concerned, including the Minister of Education, all of which yielded no result. The petitioner further submitted that the concerned authorities have conducted several inspections and had submitted their reports, which were ignored by the Government. P. Venugopal representing the petitioners argued that the Government failed to discharge the duties cast upon them under Section 19 of the Kerala Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2011 r/w Section 3(3) of the Kerala Education Act, 1958. The petitioner also presented Reports prepared by Manjeri Dy. District Education Officer and Malappuram District Educational Officer; Order issued by Kerala State Human Rights Commission and Kerala State Child Rights Protection Commission (hereinafter Commissions); all of which were clear on the point that Elambra is a remote area with the closest primary schools situated 5 km away and the Government is constitutionally and statutorily obligated to take concrete steps for providing basic educational infrastructure. The respondents were represented by Surin George Ipe.

The Court perused the facts; contentions; the Reports and relevant Supreme Court cases highlighting the Right to Education as a fundamental right. The Bench taking into account international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Convention on the Rights of the Child observed that, Right to Education is not only a fundamental right but it is also a Human Right. The Court delved in-depth on the evolution of a child’s right to education and the obligations of the State in relation to it. Taking into consideration statutes such as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2010 and the concerned State legislations, the Court noted that that the people of Elambra have been demanding establishment of a Government Lower Primary School, whereas the State Government, without considering the reports of local educational authorities, by erroneously applying the Rules and not following the relevant statutory provisions particularly Section 3(3) of Kerala Education Act, 1958, Section 3 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 and Rule 6 of the Kerala Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2011, have denied sanction for establishment of a Government LP School in Elambra. The Court concurred with the reports presented by the local educational authorities which have clearly recorded that the area in question is educationally backward with no proper transport facility. There are Upper Primary and High schools in and around the locality within a distance of 2-5 kms. There is no Government LP school within the radius of 3 kms and people are depending upon schools, which are not within the neighbourhood of Elambra. The Court also noted that since the respondents did not challenge the Orders issued by the Commissions, therefore they cannot argue that such Orders are not binding on them. [T. Muhammed Faisi v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 2981, decided on 29-07-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Kerala High Court: C.S. Dias, J., while referring the present petition to a Division Bench of the Court stated that,

Right to education is sacrosanct in the Constitution of India and is the mandate under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

Petitioners submitted that the respondents 7th and 8th where their children are pursuing their studies have been insisting for payment of additional fees in order to facilitate virtual classrooms in view of COVID-19.

It is disheartening to learn that a student allegedly took away her life due to lack of access to the internet for attending virtual classes.

Payment of Fees

Petitioner in the context of their grievance also submitted that some State/UTs had formulated guidelines for the conduct of online classes and ordered that the students should not be denied education for want of payment of fees during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Matter adjourned to Division Bench

In exercise of powers of this High Court, under Section 3 of the Kerala high Court Act, 1958, and in view of the substantial public interest in the petition, bench adjourned the matter to Division Bench of this Court.

Interim Order by Single Bench

In view of the outbreak of pandemic, respondents 6 and 7 have been directed not to levy any additional fee from petitioners children until further order.[Sreelekshmi v. State of Kerala, WP (C) No. 10867 of 2020, decided on 03-06-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, R. Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai, JJ has constituted a three-member committee to look into demand for allowing 4G mobile internet in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The order of the Court came in the plea seeking restoration of 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir claiming the 2G service available in the Union Territory is not sufficient for education and business purposes amid the ongoing coronavirus-induced lockdown.

Noticing that since the issues involved affect the State, and the nation, the Court was of the opinion that the Review Committee which consists of only State level officers, may not be in a position to satisfactorily address all the issues raised. It, hence, found it appropriate to constitute a Special Committee comprising of the following Secretaries at national, as well as State, level to look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Committee will consists of:

  • The Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (Home Secretary), Government of India. (Head of the Committee)
  • The Secretary, Department of Communications, Ministry of Communications, Government of India.
  • The Chief Secretary, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Committee will not only examine the contentions of, and the material placed by both the parties but also examine the appropriateness of the alternatives suggested by the Petitioners, regarding limiting the restrictions to those areas where it is necessary and the allowing of faster internet (3G or 4G) on a trial basis over certain geographical areas and advise Centre regarding the same.

It is important to note that, internet services were suspended in J&K in August last year after the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir . While the 2G services on postpaid mobile phones and broadband have been restored, 4G services still remain suspended. While on one hand, the petitioners have argued that 4G speed was essential for healthcare, education, trade and business in the union territory during this hour of crisis due to coronavirus, the officials in Jammu and Kashmir, on the other hand, contended that restoration of 4G services could give rise to anti-national activities and militancy.

Attorney General KK Venugopal appearing for the Central government had earlier, told the Court that the orders that have been passed specifically stated that restrictions of internet speed are required for national security. Venugopal said that it’s about the protection of the lives of the entirety of the population of Jammu and Kashmir and not just the COVID-19 patients.

“Terrorists are being pushed into the country. Yesterday, there were some tragic events also. These men could easily take videos of the troop movements because they were trusted. The enemy could know the troop movements if they had 4G,”

The attorney general said that the petitions have to be examined against the larger public interest of national security, adding that national security is paramount and those tasked with protecting national security must be the sole judges in the matter.

“The matters of policy decision cannot be interfered with by the court. It must be left to the government,”

Lawyer Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the court that the COVID-19 situation in J&K has worsened and added that problems are being faced by doctors who cannot access necessary information about coronavirus treatment due to the internet speed. 75 doctors have also made a representation flagging the same concerns.

Senior lawyer Salman Khurshid, appearing for another petitioner in the matter, said that private schools are under government directions to provide education
via video-conferencing.

“We have an obligation under the Right to Education to provide education”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the Central government had started with a complete lockdown and then brought in relaxations by allowing movement, followed by landline and then 2G internet services.

Taking note of all the arguments, the Court said that while it might be desirable and convenient to have better internet in the present circumstances, wherein there is a worldwide pandemic and a national lockdown, the fact that outside forces are trying to infiltrate the borders and destabilize the integrity of the nation, as well as cause incidents resulting in the death of innocent citizens and security forces every day cannot be ignored. However, considering that the authorities in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir have selected the 2G speed to restrict the flow of information in order to prevent misuse of data by terrorists and their supporters to disturb the peace and tranquility of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the Court, however, said,

“we do recognize that the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been plagued with militancy, which is required to be taken into consideration.”

The Court, hence, highlighted the observations made by it’s January order in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 25, wherein it has said that for meaningful enforcement of the spirit of the judgment, inter alia, the authorities are required to pass orders with respect to only those areas, where there is absolute necessity of such restrictions to be imposed, after satisfying the directions passed earlier.

Though the Court agreed to it’s observation in Anuradha Bhasin judgment that the internet is being used to support fallacious proxy wars by raising money, recruiting and spreading propaganda/ideologies, it was also cognizant of the concerns relating to the ongoing pandemic and the hardships that may be faced by the citizens and that it might be desirable and convenient to have better internet in the present circumstances, wherein there is a worldwide pandemic and a national lockdown.

Terming the issue of restoration of 4G internet service in the valley as “a very important but a sensitive issue on national security and human rights”, the Court asked the Committee to take a balanced decision, keeping both aspects in mind.

[Foundations for Media Professionals v. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 453, decided on 11.05.2020]


Also read:

Article 370| Review all orders imposing curbs in a week and put them in public domain: SC to J&K administration [Anuradha Bhasin judgment]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Court has reserved its order on a batch of petitions seeking restoration of 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir claiming the 2G service available in the Union Territory is not sufficient for education and business purposes amid the ongoing coronavirus-induced lockdown.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice NV Ramana said that it is taking into consideration all the issues in the matter and that it does not require any additional material in the case and said,

“We will pass appropriate orders in the case,”

During the hearing, attorney general KK Venugopal appearing for the Central government said that the orders that have been passed specifically stated that restrictions of internet speed are required for national security. Venugopal said that it’s about the protection of the lives of the entirety of the population of Jammu and Kashmir and not just the COVID-19 patients.

“Terrorists are being pushed into the country. Yesterday, there were some tragic events also. These men could easily take videos of the troop movements because they were trusted. The enemy could know the troop movements if they had 4G,”

The attorney general said that the petitions have to be examined against the larger public interest of national security, adding that national security is paramount and those tasked with protecting national security must be the sole judges in the matter.

“The matters of policy decision cannot be interfered with by the court. It must be left to the government,”

Lawyer Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the court that the COVID-19 situation in J&K has worsened and added that problems are being faced by doctors who cannot access necessary information about coronavirus treatment due to the internet speed. 75 doctors have also made a representation flagging the same concerns.

Justice Ramana said that the government is saying the people can rely on the landline broadband connection, to which Ahmadi responded by saying
broadband connections account for less than one percent of the total internet connections in J&K.

“There are around approximately 1 lakh 32 thousand broadband landline connections in J&K, but more than one crore phone/internet connections. The total number of broadband connections in J&K account for less than 1 percent of the total internet connections,”

Justice BR Gavai said,

the numbers are not in dispute but it’s a legal question of balance and the government is raising security concerns.

Justice Ramana said that the Central government is claiming that there has been a surge in terrorist activities and they have collaborated via 4G. Ahmadi
responded by saying that the terrorist activities were more in the 1990s when there was no internet at all.

Ahmadi submitted that the Centre is arguing that the national security may be compromised, but they have not been able to show any direct nexus in the case.

“Let them open internet speeds for a week and see if there is any nexus with terrorism.”

Senior lawyer Salman Khurshid, appearing for another petitioner in the matter, said that private schools are under government directions to provide education
via video-conferencing.

“We have an obligation under the Right to Education to provide education”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the Central government had started with a complete lockdown and then brought in relaxations by allowing movement, followed by landline and then 2G internet services.

Notably, internet services were suspended in J&K in August last year after the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union
Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir . While the 2G services on postpaid mobile phones and broadband have been restored, 4G services still remain suspended.

(Source: ANI)

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo-motu cognizance of a media report that Chilla Khadar village in Delhi does not have a school due to which the children have to cross the Yamuna river by boat everyday putting their lives to immense danger to attend a school. It is not easy especially for girl students, as they have to walk an hour to reach the school after riding a boat. Reportedly, if the boat is not available on a particular day, the students have to walk about 2 kms on a non-motorable road.

The Commission has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. The report must include details of the government schools functional in the area mentioned in the news reports.

It has observed that the contents of the news report, if true, raise serious issue of violation of human rights. It is indeed surprising that in the National Capital, everyday young students are coming across such a nightmare just to attend school for education, which is their fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21-A of the Constitution of India. The statistics projected by the government of NCT of Delhi indicate that the standard of education and infrastructure has been remarkably improved but such news reports do tell a different story.

According to the media report, to implement and respect the Right to Education Act in true sense, the primary school children should not be studying in schools more than 1 kilometre away while the distance is 3 km for students of upper primary level i.e. 6th to 8th standard. Reportedly, an officer of the Education Department of Delhi Government has said that they are not sure, if there is a school within the 3 km radius of the area. It is also mentioned in a news report that sometimes, the boat topples then it takes more time for the students to reach their school.


NHRC

[Press Release dt. 14-02-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dr DY Chandrachud and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has held that the words “by another year” in Rule 105(1) of Delhi School Education Rules 1973 stipulate that the maximum period of probation permissible is two years.

Amending History of Rule 105 of the Delhi School Education Rules, 1973

Rule 105 of the 1973 Rules, as originally enacted, stipulated that an employee shall be appointed on initial probation for a period of one year which may be extended by the appointing authority “by another year”. No separate provision was stipulated for minority institutions. Two amendments were subsequently incorporated to the 1973 Rules. On 30 January 1985, the Delhi School Education (Amendment) Rules 1984 were notified. 12 By this amendment, Rule 110 of the 1973 Rules was substituted. The Court noticed that the amending history of the 1973 Rules shows that the words “by another year” appearing in the principal part of Rule 105 has not been omitted.

“By another year” – Meaning

The consistent meaning imparted to the word “another” is a single addition or one more. The ordinary and literal construction of the words “another” read with the words “for a period of one year” in Rule 105(1) implies that the appointing authority may extend the period of probation by one additional year.

“The contention that the words “by another year” imply that the appointing authority can extend the period of probation by one year at a time without any limit cannot be accepted as this would amount to rewriting the provision by substituting the words “by another year” with the words “by one year at a time”, which is impermissible in law.”

Hence, the Court said that had the delegate of the legislature intended that there is no limit on the permissible probationary period, the words “by another year” would have been omitted.

The limit placed on the permissible extension of the probationary period draws a balance between the opportunity that must be afforded to a probationer to modify and improve the quality of service and a mandate that the appointing authority of an educational institute hires qualified teachers. To impart a meaning to the words “by another year” that the appointing authority may extend the probationary period one year at a time without a limit will allow an appointing authority to extend the probationary period, with the prior approval of the Director, of a probationer ad nauseum.

Prior approval of Director

The prior approval of the Director, save and except for minority institutions, is mandatory and must be complied with as a condition precedent for the valid exercise of the power to extend the period of probation. The Director is required to assess the determination of the appointment authority and based on that assessment, to decide whether to approve an extension of the probationary period. The provision which mandates that the prior approval of the Director shall be sought before extending the period of probation ensures that the appointing authority may not extend the probationary period without legitimate reason.

Conclusion

  • The words “by another year” in Rule 105(1) of the 1973 Rules stipulate that the maximum period of probation permissible is two years. The limit equally applies to minority institutions covered by the first proviso to Rule 105; and
  • Rule 105(2) stipulates a condition precedent to the issuance of an order of confirmation. The continuation of the services of a probationer beyond the period of probation does not amount to a deemed confirmation of service. It is only upon the issuance of an order of confirmation by the appointing authority that a probationer is confirmed in service

[Durgabhai Deshmukh Memorial Sr. Sec. School v. JAJ Vasu Sena, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1075, decided on 21.08.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: This petition was filed before a Bench of Ajay Bhanot, J., where the application for listing on grant-in-aid list filed by petitioner was rejected.

Petitioner had filed an application for being listed on grant-in-aid list but the same was rejected by the State Government on the ground that proper representation was not filed before the competent authority and also due to the fact that the Scheme of State was not in continuation.

Petitioner contended that the impugned order was unsustainable in law and facts. Petitioner referred a case of State of U.P. v. Pawan Kumar Divedi, 2014 (9) SCC 692 where the Supreme Court had taken note of the subsequent amendments incorporated in the Constitution for ensuring the right of education as a fundamental right up to the age of 14 years. Hearing the contention of petitioner, respondent stated that the authorities of the State shall re-visit the issue.

High Court was of the view that the writ petition should succeed and was allowed. Therefore, impugned order was set aside. Further, State was directed to examine the petitioner’s claim for being taken on a list of aid in view of the case referred above. [Dr B.R. Ambedkar Primary Bal Vikas Sansthan Avam Junior High School v. State of U.P., 2019 SCC OnLine All 102, order dated 23-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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]

Hot Off The PressNews

The counsels appearing for various petitioners in the final hearing on the Aadhaar matter that has been going on since 17.01.2018, finally concluded their arguments on the 19th Day of the hearing and made way for the Attorney General KK Venugopal to begin his submissions on the 20th Day of the hearing before the 5-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and Dr. AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, Dr. DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, JJ.

Below are the highlights from Day 19 of the Aadhaar Hearing:

Submissions of Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora:

  • Privacy judgment recognises that wherever there is data collection, it can result in surveillance.
  • In the cloak of mass surveillance, the democracy can be destroyed rather than being protected. This will result in the chilling effect due to 360° view on the individuals at all times.
  • Surveillance has a chilling effect on exercise of other fundamental rights like freedom of speech and expression.
  • Collection, aggregation and retention of personal data under Aadhaar has has no defined purpose and thus doesn’t meet the test of proportionality and strict necessity.
  • Lack of foreseeability and apprehension of abuse justifies intervention by the court in present case.
  • Aadhaar act contains no provisions for data protection, apart from a mere obligation on the Authority to ensure security of the information which again is vague and doesn’t lay down any data security standard or prescribe measures in case of data leak. In Aadhaar project, there are no judicial safeguards or effect remedies in case of breach.
  • Aadhaar infringes the right to dignity of the individual as it amounts to requiring a licence for exercising fundamental rights. Making Aadhaar sole means of identification is neither wise nor fair as primary objective of govt. schemes is to ensure that beneficiaries get the services instead of being excluded.

Submissions of Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya:

  • A legislation may satisfy the tests of restrictions, however, looking from the lens of technology, the same legislation may prove to be intrusive.
  • Compelling state interests is ensuring the identity of individuals but it must be achieved using least intrusive methods. Assuming biometric technology is not bad, then least intrusive method is using a card with a chip which stores the biometrics.
  • In a democratic society, an individual must have the right to decide how much info he/she wants to submit.
  • In case of a chip being used, the chances of biometric failure is also reduced.
  • Even if we accept that biometric info is necessary, then what all biometric info must be made mandatory to be provided?
  • Aadhaar doesn’t stand on the same footing as Census data where statistical data of all the citizens is taken which also has a lot of protection. Why should Aadhaar data be given less protection then when it contains more sensitive data?
  • We don’t have a data protection legislation in India. In case of phones or Google servers which have multiple interfaces, possibility of collation of data is not there since GDPR stops them from doing so.
  • In case of Aadhaar, there’s a centralised database unlike the localisation of data as in the case of phones which causes problems.
  • Biometric per se is not bad but when used in connection with technology, it becomes bad.

Submissions of Senior Advocate Senior Advocate CU Singh:

  • India has acceded to the Convention on Rights of the Child and enacted Juvenile Justice Act and POCSA.
  • The legislations ensure the privacy of the child. Under law, a child has no right to give consent or to enter into a contract. Child cannot be deemed to have given consent under Aadhaar that too when it involves parting with data permanently.
  • Fundamental right to education cannot be subjected to production of Aadhaar.

Submissions of Senior Advocate Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde (appearing for a petitioner having objections based on religious theology):

  • John Abraham was a student in a Mumbai school but was denied admission to Class 12 for non-production of Aadhaar.
  • The individual conscience of the petitioner leads in good faith to the conclusion that he cannot apply for Aadhaar number. Thus, there should be an exception for him. (Sikri, J finds the argument interesting. Says the Bench will consider it)

Submissions of Counsel Jayna Kothari (appearing for an organization that represents the rights of transgenders and sexual minorities):

  • Much has been discussed about Biometrics but not demographic data collected under the Aadhaar Act. Transgenders cannot get Aadhaar because they don’t have gender identity documents required by Aadhaar. Caste, religion is left out but not gender. It’s a violation of privacy and equality.

To read the highlights from the submissions of Senior Advocates KV Viswanathan and Anand Grover, click here.

To read the highlights from Senior Advocate Arvind Datar’s submissions, click here, here and here.

To read the highlights from Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanium’s submissions, click herehere and here.

To read the highlights from Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal’s arguments, click here, here and here.

Looking for the detailed submissions of Senior Advocate Shyam Divan? Read the highlights from Day 1Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 , Day 5, Day 6 and Day 7 of the hearing.

Source:  twitter.com/SFLCin

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Stating that educational institutions are bound to reserve seats from persons suffering from disability, the bench of Dr. AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ directed that all those institutions which are covered by the obligations provided under Section 32 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 shall comply with the provisions of Section 32 while making admission of students in educational courses of higher education each year.

The other directions given by the Court in this regard are:

  • Insofar as law colleges are concerned, intimation in this behalf shall be sent by those institutions to the Bar Council of India (BCI) as well. Other educational institutions will notify the compliance, each year, to the UGC. It will be within the discretion of the BCI and/or UGC to carry out inspections of such educational institutions to verify as to whether the provisions are complied with or not.
  • UGC should constitute a committee consisting of persons from amongst Central Advisory Board, State Advisory Boards, Chief Commissioner of State Commissioners appointed under the Disabilities Act. The said committee will prepare a detailed study for making provisions in respect of accessibility as well as pedagogy and would also suggest the modalities for implementing those suggestions, their funding and monitoring, etc by June 2018.
  • The aforementioned committee will also consider feasibility of constituting an in-house body in each educational institution (of teachers, staff, students and parents) for taking care of day to day needs of differently abled persons as well as for implementation of the Schemes that would be devised by the Expert Committee.

It is important to note that the petition was filed only in respect of law colleges but considering the fact that these issues are of seminal importance, the Court decided to extend the coverage by encompassing all educational institutions. Stressing upon the importance of the issue, the Court said:

“a basic underline assumption, which is well recognised, is that everyone can learn; there is no such person as one who is ineducable; and that, accordingly, all disabled persons (from whatever disability they are suffering) have right to get not only minimum education but higher education as well. Not making adequate provisions to facilitate proper education to such persons, therefore, would amount to discrimination.”

The Court, hence, directed that the Report of the committee, as well as the Action Taken Report, shall be submitted before it in July 2018. [Disabled Rights Group v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1486, decided on 15.12.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ ordered the transfer of the matter pending before the Patna High Court, where the constitution of the Inspecting Team by the National Council for Teachers Education (NCTE) for inspection of the Teachers’ Educational Institutions was in question.

The Court ordered the transfer of the matter under Article 139A of the Constitution of India after Manish Kumar, appearing for the Bihar School Examination Board in a similar matter, brought to the Court’s notice that the question as to inspections of the Institutions in the State of Bihar was being heard by the Patna High Court and that it was suggesting removal of NCTE Chairman.

On 09.08.2017, Chakradhari Sharan Singh, J of Patna High Court had said that nominating Stenographer, Section Officer and Videographer, showed complete none application of mind, high handedness and arbitrariness on the part of the authorities of the NCTE and directed for inclusion of Union of India as party for deciding the question of the procedure for removal of the Chairman of the NCTE. It was said the persons, holding top position in the NCTE, were either completely insensitive towards the issues or were completely incompetent to hold the position, which they are holding. A. Santhosh Mathew is serving as the Chairman of NCTE.  While hearing the matter on 04.09.2017, the Court was informed by Shivam Singh, the counsel appearing for NCTE, that the Supreme Court has ordered for transfer of all the cases to the Supreme Court and hence, refrained from passing any order.

The Supreme Court will hear all the connected matters on 09.10.2017. [St. Paul Teacher Training College v. State of Bihar, Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s). 694/2017, order dated 01.09.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Upholding the Allahabad High Court decision quashing the Uttar Pradesh Government’s order regularizing the Shiksha Mitras, the bench of A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, JJ said that the Shiksha Mitras cannot be regularized as teachers as the appointment of Shiksha Mitras was not only contractual, it was not as per qualification prescribed for a teacher nor on designation of teacher nor in pay scale of teachers.

Noticing that the Shiksha Mitras were never appointed as teachers as per applicable qualifications and are not covered by relaxation order under Section 23(2) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, they could not be appointed as teachers in breach of Section 23(1) of the said Act, the Court said that regularisation can only be of a mere irregularity and that the State is not competent to relax the qualifications.

However, in order to strike a balance between the claims of 1.78 Lakhs persons to be regularized in violation of law and the duty to uphold the rule of law and also to have regard to the right of children in the age of 6 to 14 years to receive quality education from duly qualified teachers, the Court said that It may be permissible to give some weightage to the experience of Shiksha Mitras or some age relaxation may be possible, but mandatory qualifications cannot be dispensed with.

It was held that the Shiksha Mitras should be given opportunity to be considered for recruitment if they have acquired or they now acquire the requisite qualification in terms of advertisements for recruitment for next two consecutive recruitments. They may also be given suitable age relaxation and some weightage for their experience as may be decided by the concerned authority. Stating that consideration for career of 1.78 lac Shiksha Mitras, over and above their legal right, cannot be at the cost of fundamental right of children to free quality education by duly qualified teachers in terms of legislative mandate, the bench said that even if for a stop gap arrangement teaching may be by unqualified teachers, qualified teachers have to be ultimately appointed.

Untrained Shiksha Mitras were appointed in the State of Uttar Pradesh under the Uttar Pradesh Basic Education (Teachers) Service (Nineteenth Amendment) Rules 2014. Terms of appointment for these Shiksha Mitras were relaxed and they appointed for imparting primary education without appearing for Teachers Eligibility Test. [State of U.P. v. Anand Kumar Yadav, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 792, decided on 25.07.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: While disposing off a public interest litigation filed by Abhyutthanam Society for ensuring effective implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 the court said that the State Government is not competent & holding any authority to re-write the definition of Sec.2 (d) of the Right to Education Act, 2009, the Court also directed the State government to include children belonging to OBC & SBC categories whose parents’ annual income not exceeding Rs.2.50 lakhs as part of the notification on March 28 this year for “child belonging to disadvantaged group”, as contemplated under section 2(d) of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. Children whose parents or guardians annual income do not exceed Rs.2.50 lakhs be considered as “child belonging to weaker section”, as per section 2(e) of the Act, 2009 and both the substitution be made part of the present notifications issued by the State Government on 28 March this year.

The petitioner argued that the Parliament intended to achieve the constitutional goal of equality of opportunity through inclusive elementary education to all by enacting the Act of 2009, which can be traced from paragraphs 4 & 5 of the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill and the State Government under its impugned Notifications debars the major segment of children who are eligible to be considered for admission under the Act of 2009 and debarring members of OBC & SBC, according to the petitioner, is violative of Art.14 of the Constitution.

The division bench comprising of Ajay Rastogi C.J. and D C Somani J.  gave these two substitutions: Let the child belonging to OBC & SBC whose parents’ annual income does not exceed Rs.2.50 Lacs be also included as part of the Notification dt.28.03.2016 of the appropriate Government for “child belonging to disadvantaged group”, as contemplated u/Sec.2(d) of the Act, 2009; and The children whose parents/guardians annual income does not exceed Rs.2.50 lakhs be considered as “child belonging to weaker section”, as contemplated u/Sec.2(e) of the Act, 2009 and both the substitution be made part of the present Notifications dt.28.03.2016 issued by the State Government in exercise of powers conferred by Cl.(d) & (e) of Sec.2 of the Act, 2009. The Bench further said that with these two modifications, the writ petition stands disposed of and the respondents are directed to consider the categories which are now being included under the present order and initiate the process for inviting applications and admission to various schools without any further loss of time so that students to be admitted may not suffer their studies for the present academic session.

The Court further said “Since the applications for admission in terms of the new notifications have been received, we have the option either to quash and set aside both the notifications issued by the state government or fill the gap which according to us may be in fulfilment of provisions of Sec.2(d) & 2(e) of the Act 2009, and add the section of the ‘disadvantaged group’ and ‘weaker section’ which are missing and deprived from being considered under the two separate heads covered. [Abhyutthanam Society. v. State of Rajasthan, 2016 SCC OnLine Raj 1947, Decided on 13.05.2016]