The Delhi High Court has ruled that while civic authorities can take assistance from its teachers for non-academic work such as the opening of bank accounts for students, they cannot force them to do so by imposing punitive measures.
Justice C. Hari Shankar observed, "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.
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 essentially ruled that teachers and principals cannot be asked by any authority to perform duties outside the purview of Section 24 of the Right of Children to Free Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 read with Rule 21 of the RTE Rules.
It then set aside the notifications requiring teachers to conduct house to house surveys for maintenance of Ward Education Register under the Act. It, however, opined that the authorities would be justified in seeking their assistance in opening of bank accounts of the children studying in the school and linking of all such bank accounts with Aadhaar Cards. Nevertheless, it added that this requirement shall not be treated as mandatory, or form the basis for any proceedings against principals and teachers.
The court was hearing a petition filed by an organisation called "Akhil Delhi Prathmik Shikshak Sangh", which is a society comprising teachers of schools run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, espousing their cause.
The petition had challenged the delegation of non-teaching duties on teachers in government schools. It had asserted that duties of teachers stand exhaustively delineated in Section 24 of the RTE Act and Rule 21 of the RTE Rules. There provisions viewed in conjunction do not permit allocation of any duties to teachers other than those specified therein, it submitted.
The Delhi government had, on the other hand, contended that the aforementioned duties are inextricably intertwined with the duty of imparting education and that, therefore, requiring the principal and teachers to perform such duties would not violate the Act or the Rules.
The court, however, opined that the provisions of the Act make it clear that teachers and principals in schools cannot be asked to perform duties which are outside the pale thereof. It asserted, "Obviously, therefore, conducting house to house surveys or performing any other duties towards maintenance of the Ward Education Register fall outside the pale of Section 24 of the Act and Rule 21 of the Rules."
The court further pointed out that the RTE Act and Rules cast the duty of maintenance of the Ward Education Register on the local authority and do not contemplate participation of the principal and the teachers of the schools in that 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 observed.
The only exception to this, it noted, existed in Section 27 of the RTE Act, which prohibits deployment of teachers for non-educational purposes other than the decennial population census, disaster relief duties or duties relating to elections to the local authority or the State Legislatures or Parliament.
Read the Judgment Here