Shiksha Mitras protest at Laxman mela park in Lucknow, UP, in 2018.(HT archive)
Shiksha Mitras protest at Laxman mela park in Lucknow, UP, in 2018.(HT archive)

Setback to UP’s Shiksha Mitras as SC allows state government to fill 69,000 assistant teacher posts

The Shiksha Mitras had challenged a state government order that raised the minimum qualifying marks for Assistant Teachers Recruitment Examination to 60-65% from 40-45%
By Abraham Thomas | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 19, 2020 11:58 AM IST

The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday removed the legal obstacles put up by around 100,000 aggrieved Shiksha Mitras, or para teachers, in Uttar Pradesh (UP) in the way of the Yogi Adityanath-led government to fill up around 69,000 vacant posts of assistant teachers.

The Shiksha Mitras had challenged a state government order, which was issued on January 7, 2019. The order had raised the minimum qualifying marks for Assistant Teachers Recruitment Examination (ATRE), 2019, to 60-65% from 40-45% in ATRE, 2018.

Around 30 petitions were filed in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court (HC) a day after ATRE, 2019, was conducted, challenging the revised eligibility norms.

Several Shiksha Mitras were inconvenienced due to higher qualifying cut-offs and failed to make the grade.

However, the two-member apex court bench, comprising Justices UU Lalit and M Mohan Shantanagouder, found nothing wrong with the state government’s order.

The SC said: “Any process, which applied equally to all the candidates and was designed to garner the best talent, cannot be called arbitrary or irrational.”

The bench viewed the matter through the lens of Constitutional guarantee of right to free education under Article 21A.

The bench said, “Article 21A of the Constitution would envisage quality education being imparted to the children, which, in turn, would signify that the teachers must be meritorious and the best of the lot.”

The bench approved the enhanced qualifying marks set by the state government and allowed the latter to fill up the 69,000 posts for assistant teachers, as per the results of ATRE-2019, which were declared on May 12 amid the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.

Altogether, 1,46,060 candidates were declared successful in the examination.

The SC held out a sliver of hope for the Shiksha Mitras and recorded the submission of the state government, which was keen on offering one more opportunity to the aggrieved para teachers.

However, the court left it to the discretion of the state government to consider the “manner and the modalities” in which the opportunity could be availed of.

The appeals before the apex court arose out of an order passed by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad HC on May 6 following which the Shiksha Mitras lost their challenge to the qualifying cut-offs fixed by the state government.

The Shiksha Mitras have been serving in UP under a state government order that was issued on May 26, 1999.

The objective of recruiting Shiksha Mitras was to maintain teacher and student ratio in primary schools by hiring para teachers at a lesser monthly salary.

Earlier, Shiksha Mitras were paid a monthly honorarium of Rs 1,450, which was later increased to Rs 10,000.

The Shiksha Mitras had claimed that those who had appeared for ATRE, 2018, and ATRE, 2019, formed a homogeneous class, but the SC did not accept this contention. The apex court maintained that the difficulty level of both the examinations was different.

The bench found out that 37.62% of candidates had qualified in ATRE, 2019, when the eligibility cut-off was 60-65%. While 38.83% of candidates had qualified in ATRE, 2018, when the eligibility cut-off was 40-45%.

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