The Delhi High Court pulled up the AAP government on Tuesday for “lack of concern and sensitivity” and a “myopic” manner of appointing Special Education Teachers (SET) for disabled kids by not granting age relaxation to eligible candidates despite a dearth of such educators.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said that since there was a dearth of suitably qualified candidates for SET, “it is qualification and merit which should be given due precedence” and relaxation of age ought to have been granted to all who were otherwise eligible.
The observation by the court came while allowing the plea of a man seeking age relaxation in order to qualify for the post of SET in Delhi government schools.
“We are of the view that in a case like this, where there is a dearth of suitably qualified candidates for SET, it is qualification and merit which should be given due precedence. Relaxation of age ought to have been granted for appointment to the post of SET to all, who were otherwise eligible.
“While directing so, we are also mindful of the fact that women candidates selected for the same post have been granted a blanket relaxation of 10 years and, therefore, we see no reason as to why, in the light of the admitted shortage of SETs, the same relaxation was not granted to the male candidates as well,” it said.
The bench expressed displeasure with the Delhi government for not granting the age relaxation to the petitioner, Syed Mehedi, as the court had twice sent the matter back to it for considering his request in view of the fact that women were granted a blanket relaxation of 10 years.
Both times, in 2014 and in 2019, the Delhi government issued officer orders rejecting Mehedi’s request for age relaxation to be considered for appointment as a SET.
Quashing both the office orders of September 2014 and February this year by which his request was denied, the court directed that he be granted age relaxation and be also considered for appointment as a SET based on his merit position in the selection process.
Displeased with the stand taken by the government, the bench in its judgement allowing Mehedi’s plea, said: “The issue of age relaxation had to be considered by the respondents in a wholesome manner, with the right sensitivities, and not with a narrow straight jacket perspective, as they have done in the present case.
“Their (government) only reason (for rejection) is that the petitioner was already overage in 2009 when he acquired the qualification required for the post of SET, and that he could not be granted age relaxation individually.”
The bench added: “The lack of concern and sensitivity towards their own constitutional and statutory obligations – to ensure that the right to education of the differently enabled children is not violated, and that they are imparted knowledge and skill effectively through specially trained and qualified SET – can be gauged from the fact that they do not consider the huge gap in the number of vacant posts and the number of application received as significant.”
It said it has no hesitation in concluding that the government, despite having the power to grant relaxation in appropriate cases, has “failed to consider the relevant factors and misdirected themselves by examining the issue in a myopic manner, without taking into consideration the constitutionally and statutorily recognised and protected rights of children with disabilities”.
The bench further said that many candidates may not have applied earlier due to being overage and in order to be fair to them, directed the government to undertake a fresh recruitment process to fill up the vacant posts of SET, by incorporating the clause of age relaxation to all those applying for the post.
The court directed the government to ensure its directions were complied with within four weeks from Tuesday.