Thursday, November 18, 2010

Shikshan Sevak Termination

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court has come to the aid of the almost one lakh shikshan sevaks (teaching assistants) in the state. Holding that theirs is not merely a contractual position, Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud has observed that the state amended the law in 2007 to bring shikshan sevaks within the purview of the Maharashtra Employees of Private Schools (Conditions of Service) Regulation Act.

The object of the law was to "to bring an element of security to the services of shikshan sevaks, instead of relegating them purely to the realm of a contractual position'', Justice Chandrachud said. He recently set aside the role of a grievance committee in the termination of such teaching assistants and held that a shikshan sevak could challenge a termination notice before a school tribunal just like any other regular teacher of a school.

"The remedy of an appeal before the school tribunal is part of the statutory scheme conceived by the legislation as a measure of protection to teachers and to the non-teaching staff of private schools,'' the judge said. The court was hearing a case involving a teacher of Our Lady of Salvation High School, owned and managed by a church of the same name in the city.

A school tribunal is a judicial body governed by rules and principals of natural justice. Significantly, the HC held that any shikshan sevak could appeal before the tribunal against termination of service.

Rashmi Upadhyay, a shikshan sevak appointed in 2004 by Our Lady of Salvation High School, was dismissed from service in 2007 with a month's notice. She challenged the termination before a grievance committee which, in August 2008, set aside the termination and directed the school to keep her as an assistant teacher with consequential benefits.

The school argued that though the shikshan sevak scheme was introduced in 2000 by the Maharashtra government to make up for paucity of teachers, the state gave the scheme the force of law only in 2007.

The court noted that shikshan sevaks were to be on probation for three years but the law says they had to be deemed confirmed as teachers at the end of the probation.

The law also notes that a school management shall fill in every permanent vacancy in a private school by appointing a qualified teacher.

Interpreting the law governing shikshan sevaks and teachers of private schools, the HC said that a school tribunal could hear appeals against dismissal, removal, termination, reduction in rank and supersession. The tribunal's decision is also final and binding.

The court said that the government "intended to bring shikshan sevaks within the purview of the statutory protection which other teachers enjoyed under the law''. In other words, the services of shikshan sevaks would no longer remain in the realm of contract to be governed by mere executive instructions.

Read more: Shikshan sevaks can challenge termination: HC - The Times of India