The Bombay high court on Wednesday struck down a state notification requiring teachers across Maharashtra to undertake house-to-house surveys to prepare and update the National Population Register (NPR).
The division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Amjad Sayed held that the August 26 notification was contrary to provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which prohibits employing teachers for any non-educational work, except for work related to the census, disaster relief and general elections to local bodies, state assembly and parliament.
The Maharashtra Rajya Prathmik Shikshak Sangh and other teachers’ associations had challenged the validity of the notification as notices were addressed to several teachers asking them to show why they should not be prosecuted for refusing to undertake the NPR work.
The bench struck down these notices, saying no penal or coercive action can be taken by authorities against teachers for refusing to undertake the work. “Any process issued in that regard stand quashed and set aside,” the bench observed
Narendra Bandiwadekar, the petitioner’s advocate, submitted that the notification was contrary to sections 25 and 27 of the RTE Act. He said that while section 25 requires teachers to mandatorily complete minimum teaching hours per week, section 27 prohibits deploying them for non-educational work.
The central government had filed an affidavit in reply to the petitions, contending that the NPR survey was of national importance. The government said the NPR was part of the census and covered by the exceptions laid down under section 27 of the RTE Act, and thus, court interference was unwarranted.
The bench, however, held the survey — undertaken to enable the central government to issue national identity cards to Indian citizens — was undertaken under provisions of the Citizenship Act. As it had no nexus with the census, it is therefore not covered under the exceptions to section 27.