The Supreme Court Wednesday ordered the Bihar government to appoint 35,540 primary school teachers as per their seniority based on the year they secured their Bachelor of Education or Bachelor in Teaching degrees.
A bench of Justice Altmas Kabir and Justice H.L. Dattu gave the order on a joint lawsuit by thousands of professionally qualified teachers of Bihar, who sought contempt to court proceedings against the state government for not keeping its word given to the apex court in 2007 for appointing them.
The bench asked the government to appoint all the teachers on the basis of their seniority and without taking any examination.
The legal tangle of trained teachers' appointment dates back to December 2003, when Bihar's erstwhile Rabri Devi government had advertised vacancies of 35,540 primary teachers in government schools and had proceeded to appoint people who had passed matriculation or higher examinations.
This was challenged by the professionally qualified teachers of Bihar before the Patna High Court. They contended the move would curtail their right to be appointed as primary teachers. They also contended it would violate an earlier apex court ruling, which held that only professioanlly qualified teachers could be given the teaching job.
Acting on the lawsuit by Nand Kishore Singh and other trained teachers, the high court asked the state government to appoint only professionally qualified teachers in primary schools either on the basis of competitive examination or otherwise.
The high court in its ruling in 2005 came down heavily on Bihar's educational system and its politicians, and observed that 'the state, which has not been appointing any primary teacher since 1990, has generated generations of illiterates in the last twenty years'.
The then Rabri Devi government, however, moved the apex court contending that matriculates are able to impart primary education and should not be barred from appointment.
Later in 2007, the Nitish Kumar government withdrew the lawsuit filed by its predecessor, and promised the apex court that it would appoint all 35,540 teachers in primary schools as in any case vacancies existed for almost double that number for primary teachers.
But later the Nitish Kumar government began appointing all trained teachers on a consolidated salary of Rs.5,000 and matriculates on a salary of Rs.4,000.
It was this act that prompted the teachers to move the apex court again, this time for contempt to court proceedings against state government officials for not keeping the promise made to the apex court.
Appearing for qualified teachers, advocate Rakesh Upadhyaya told the court that the Bihar government was appointing teachers on an ad-hoc basis utilising the money given to it by the central government under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, which is being funded by United Nations.
He pointed out that though the present government action may benefit over 200,000 people in the state who might get at least a temporary source of living, it will not create a proper infrastructure for education.
Though the government would earn political dividends, it would not create a permanent pool of teachers for the state, said Upadhyaya.
The bench, however, refraining from launch of contempt to court proceedings, ordered the state government to appoint all the trained teachers on the basis of their seniority without taking any examinations as the state had already told the court that more vacancies existed than the number of qualified teachers.
The court, however, did not interfere with the state government's act of appointing matriculates as teachers as per the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.