Thursday, October 14, 2010

State told to ensure that minority institutions frame appointment rules

The Madras High Court has said the State government should take action to ensure that minority institutions framed regulations for selecting staff and the procedure for taking disciplinary action and matters incidental thereto.

In its judgment allowing an appeal filed by a teacher of a minority institution, a Division Bench consisting of Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and K.K. Sasidharan observed that in spite of the direction given by the Supreme Court in the T.M.A.Pai Foundation case, minority institutions had not framed the regulations.

The Bench observed that in the T.M.A.Pai Foundation case, the Supreme Court in clear terms indicated that minority institutions should evolve necessary guidelines in the appointment of teachers and Headmaster. The court was conscious of the fact that the minorities enjoyed considerable freedom in establishing and administering educational institutions. Even then, the Supreme Court considered it fit to direct the minority institutions to evolve a rational procedure for appointment of teachers.

In her writ appeal, B.Devashanthini, a postgraduate teacher in English in St.Mary's Higher Secondary School, Melpalai, Kanyakumari district, challenged an order of a single Judge of September 2008 rejecting her request to refix the seniority and to consider her for promotion as Headmistress.

She claimed regularisation from August 1979. She said even though she was senior to another teacher she was regularised from October 25, 1981 and her junior from October 24, 1981.

Originally, she filed a writ petition relating to refixing of seniority. It was disposed of with a direction to the Director of School Education (DSE) to consider and dispose of her representation on merits and as per law. The DSE opined that Ms.Devashanthini being elder to another teacher, S.Egbert Jelestin, should have been held as senior over the latter. But he said the request for refixing seniority could not be considered as the school was a minority institution and rejected the request.

Meanwhile, the school appointed C.S.Xavier as Headmaster overlooking the seniority of the petitioner and the other teacher. Aggrieved, Ms.Devashanthini challenged the DSE's order of August 2004.

The school justified the appointment of an outside teacher as Headmaster on the ground that the managing committee was of the opinion that he was the most suitable candidate. A single Judge dismissed the petitioner's plea. Hence, the present appeal.

The Bench said “The right given to the minority institution is to administer the institution. Administration does not mean maladministration.” The right of the management to administer the institution had been taken as an absolute right even without framing service regulations.

It had been construed as a right even not to consider the case of senior teachers belonging to the very same minority community, for whose benefit the institution was established.

The Bench quashed the DSE's order. It declared that the appellant was senior to Egbert Jelestin.

It directed the school to consider Ms.Devashanthini's claim for promotion as Assistant Headmistress or Headmistress in the next available vacancy in any of the institutions under corporate management considering the limited period of service available to the appellant as a teacher.

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