Primary school teachers in Maharashtra will no longer be forced to do non-teaching activities such as pulse polio drive, malaria survey or family planning survey.
They will, however, have to help with census and election work.
The Bombay High Court on Tuesday observed that the state government had no power to rope in primary teachers for non-teaching activities. The HC allowed the government to allot primary teachers any non-teaching work in case there is “any statutory power to do so” but only on public holidays.
A division bench of Justice Ajay Khanwilkar and Justice R.M. Sawant held that roping in primary teachers for non-teaching work directly affects the working condition of the teachers and quality of education. The court was hearing a petition filed by the Maharashtra Rajya Prathmik Shikshan Sangh in 1997.
In the petition, the federation of primary teachers' unions had challenged a circular issued by the state government in March 1997 to survey families below poverty line. Their lawyer CG Gawnekar had cited the Bombay Primary Education Act, 1948, that governs the employment of primary teachers, and contended that the government had no power to rope in teachers for such non-teaching activities.
Assistant Government Pleader C.R. Sonawane argued that Section 261 (2) (b) of the Zilla Parishad Act said the state had enough powers to do so. The judges found that the provision dealt with requisitioning zilla parishad employees for works that are not specifically allocated to the zilla parishad. The court said: “You [the state government] cannot requisite the teachers and at the same time also ask them to teach students.”
The high court also suggested that the Centre conduct a comprehensive survey instead of roping in government and semi-government staff for enumeration of BPL families, Census and Unique Identification Numbers.
“That would not only obviate requisition of government staff every time for similar work but also save substantial public exchequer," observed the court.