August 26, 2021 2:47:41 am
The state government has submitted an affidavit in the Gujarat High Court stating that “reasonable regulations” over religious and linguistic minority schools — brought by the latest amendments to the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary (Amendment) Act, 2021 — are necessary to curb “maladministration while also ensuring that aid so granted is spent to advance better education and not for superfluous purposes”.
Stating that the “right to administer is not absolute”, the state government, in its affidavit submitted to the court last week, also cited “past irregularities” by minority schools. The HC had taken up nearly 100 petitions filed before it challenging the latest amendments to the Act that places government control in administrative decisions for religious and linguistic minority schools.
The state government also submitted that the provisions would guarantee protection to staff members who might be exploited by the “minority educational institutions who presently have uncanalised powers”.
The latest amendment to the Act, now stipulates a centralised recruitment policy be followed, including in minority institutions. The petitioners –minority schools and associations — have submitted that the right of a minority school to select its teaching staff is guided not only by an assessment of the person’s ability but also by their “outlook and philosophy which has to be in consonance with the institution.”
The amendment also lays down conditions for promotion and termination of employees of minority schools. The amendments stand challenged primarily on the ground that it violates the constitutional rights guaranteed to minority institutions, and the changes made to the law “do not seek to preserve the minority character” of the minority schools. It is also the minority schools’ case that under the garb of governing service conditions and regulating academic standards, the amended Act seeks to “entirely take over the right of the minority institution to appoint its teaching and non- teaching staff and headmaster which is the heart and soul of the right of minority to independently administer it institutions.”
The state government has denied the petitioners’ assertion, stating that the state will ensure that the selection procedure takes into consideration “factors that are necessary to conserve the minority character of the institution,” and that the selection committee will not be “blind to the needs of the minority educational institutions”.
The state said that the minority institutions’ right to administer can be subjected to “reasonable regulations so as to facilitate and promote the efficiency of minority educational institutions as vehicles of education, consistent with the national interest.”
It said, “Keeping in mind the welfare of the staff, limits on the management of minority educational institutions can be imposed to make sure that no individual suffers from arbitrary action of such management. These provisions guarantee protection to such staff members from the arbitrary actions of minority educational institutions who presently have uncanalised powers and could therefore, very easily, exploit their staff members”.
Filed by Deputy Secretary of Education Department Ronak Mehta, the state government submitted that the right to administer is not absolute, and can be subjected to limits “so as to maintain the educational standard of a minority educational institution by providing for the qualifications and conditions of service to ensure that efficient teaching staff is appointed so as to secure the welfare and interest of students.”
The state also clarified in the affidavit that it does not seek to intervene with the right of the minority educational institutions to administer and manage their institution, “but only intends to introduce reasonable regulations so as to curtail maladministration and contribute towards raising the standard of education as well as to secure the welfare of students and staff engaged in such an institution.”
The affidavit states that the amendments only seek to promote the object of the Principal Act, that is, “to promote excellent academic standards and prevent maladministration.”
As per the state, the various incidents of “maladministration” by minority institutions, as were reported to the education department, included allegations of appointing favorable candidates who may be unqualified or ineligible, recovering money from teachers in advance before they are paid under the Direct Payment Salary Scheme, taking advance donations, extracting money, underpaying the staff, producing false documents to apply for minority status certificates, and exploiting employees and taking arbitrary actions.
In a second affidavit filed by secretary of Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB) Dineshkumar Patel, it has been submitted that the amendments are to remedy, safeguard and address the plight of “unprotected weaker section of the ill-paid teachers” and has further submitted that it is with a view to “curtail the anarchy” as was seen in “number of cases of large scale corruption, nepotism and malpractices were found prior to 1972”.
The GSHSEB has also cited instances of large-scale school inspections in 1995 revealing irregularities in many schools, including some minority schools, with two specific schools — Shantiniketan Madhyamik Shala and Janata High School in Ahmedabad — running fictitious classes. According to the GSHSEB, the exemption entitled to minority institutions “resulted into mass corruption and exploitation of employees in the field of education by the minority institutions…the standards of education were compromised.”
The petitions are now expected to be taken up next by the HC on October 20.
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