The Supreme Court on Thursday pased an order stating that government school teachers should not to be put on electoral roll revision works during teaching days or teaching hours. A bench of Justices SB Sinha and HS Bedi dismissed the petition of the Election Commission of India and said: “We direct that all teaching staff shall be put on the duties of roll revisions and election works on holidays and non-teaching days. Teachers should not ordinarily be put on duty on teaching days and within teaching hours."
The bench observed that with an advent of technology requisitioning of a large number of people for carrying out the election may not be necessary. “Holding of an election is no doubt of paramount importance. But for the said purpose the education of children cannot be neglected. Therefore, it is necessary to maintain the balance between the two,” the judges said.
The bench asked the Commission to formulate an effective scheme to see that the services of a large number of teachers were not required. Observing that the state of primary education in India is in deplorable condition and there were heavy drop outs from the schools, particularly amongst the girls schools, the court said: “The state admittedly is not in a position to perform its sovereign function of imparting education. Such functions necessarily are required to be performed by the private actors."
The Election Commission had challenged a Delhi High Court judgment that had on August 11, 2004 passed an order on the petition of St Mary's School that services of government school teachers shall not be used during teaching hours. The writ petition of St Mary's School had highlighted the absence of teachers from the school for a long time that resulted in unfinished courses, high drop out rates, poor results and inability to compete in open examinations, such as medicine and engineering.