Apex court against teachers on poll duty on School days
From Correspondents in Delhi, India, 11:00 PM IST
Expressing grave concern over the state of primary education among the poor in India, the Supreme Court Thursday told the Election Commission not to deploy school teachers on poll duty on school days but only on holidays and non-teaching days.
A bench of Justices S.B. Sinha and Harjit Singh Bedi, however, allowed the poll panel to deploy the non-teaching staff of schools on poll related duties on any day.
'We direct that all teaching staff shall be put on the duties of roll revisions and election works on holidays and non-teaching days. Teachers should not ordinarily be put on duty on teaching days and within teaching hours. Non-teaching staff, however, may be put on such duties on any day or at any time, if permissible in law,' the bench ruled.
The court banned the deploying of teachers on poll related work on teaching days after the Election Commission assured the court that 'as far as possible teachers would be put on electoral roll revision works only on holidays, non-teaching days and non-teaching hours; whereas non-teaching staff be put on duty any time.'
The bench delivered the ruling on a public interest lawsuit fled by St. Mary's School and others, challenging the government's practice of drafting a large number of schoolteachers, especially those from government schools, on duties that were not connected to teaching.
The tasks assigned to teachers included polling duties to elections, including to the Lok Sabha, state legislative assemblies, local body, even Gurudwara elections, besides revision of electoral rolls, as also the pulse polio drive, preparation of census list surveys on malaria, pollution etc.
The petitioners had contended that deployment of school teachers in all sorts of duties hardly connected to education was leading to unfinished courses, resulting in high drop out rates, poor results and inability to compete in open examinations, such as medicine, engineering etc.
The petitioner had also claimed that an informal survey conducted by them had demonstrated that about 900,000 students had enrolled themselves in Class 1 of schools run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, but only 50,000 appeared in the secondary examination.
In its ruling, the bench expressed grave concern over the pitiable condition of primary education among the poor in the country.
'Those students who are in a position to get admission in public schools presumably would also be in a position to appoint tutors whereas those students who are admitted to government schools ordinarily would be from the middle or lower middle class or poor families,' the bench said.
It added, 'The state of primary education in India is in a deplorable condition. There admittedly is heavy drop out from schools, particularly from among the girls schools.'
'The right to exercise franchise is an important one, but the right to education is also no less important being a fundamental right,' the bench observed.