The Delhi High Court has taken the authorities to task for assigning duties to schoolteachers which are “not remotely” connected to imparting education. The high court held that principals and teachers cannot be asked by municipal corporations to perform duties outside the purview of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act and rules under it.
Justice C Hari Shankar set aside several notifications issued by the corporations requiring the principals and teachers to conduct a household survey and participate in the preparation of the Ward Education Register.
The court, however, clarified that authorities are justified in seeking assistance of principals and teachers to aid in opening bank accounts of children in the school and linking them with Aadhaar cards, but the requirement cannot be treated as “mandatory” and cannot be made a basis for proceeding against them for non-rendering adequate assistance.
“This court is constrained to take judicial notice of the fact that there is a prevalent practice, in recent times, of schools assigning to teachers duties and tasks not remotely connected to imparting of education. This, in the opinion of this court, is impermissible and unconscionable in equal measure,” it said.
The court added, “Education is a serious affair, and teachers are justifiably regarded as discharging divine duties, nourishing and nurturing the minds of tomorrow. Single-minded devotion, and blind pursuit of excellence must guide every educator. It is no less than an affront, therefore, to belabour teachers with tasks which deflect, detract and distract, from the noble task of imparting education.”
The court’s order came on a petition by an organisation, Akhil Delhi Prathmik Shikshak Sangh, a society comprising teachers of schools run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, espousing their cause.
The plea challenged the duties assigned to teachers in government schools which are not linked to education, including opening of bank accounts of children of their schools, linking the accounts with Aadhaar and conducting house to house survey to maintain the ward education register.
They contended that the ward education register is required to be maintained by the ‘local authorities’ under the RTE Act. The counsel for the Delhi government contended that these duties are only incidental and ancillary to the duty of imparting education, which is the primary duty of the teachers and principals.
The court agreed with the submission of the teachers organisation that under the RTE Act and RTE Rules, the duty of maintaining the ward education register and conducting the household survey is cast upon the local authority and it do not contemplate participation of the principals and teachers in the exercise.
“No doubt, the local authority could justifiably request for assistance from the principal and the teachers of the schools, so that the carrying out of the said exercise is facilitated, and so that the purpose thereof is contained. That would not, however, justify issuance by any of the Municipal Corporations, of directives, to the teachers and the principals to mandatorily carry out the said exercise, or even to assist or participate therein, under pain of punitive consequences for default, in any manner,” it said.