Madras HC Allows Teacher’s Petition for Incentive Increment on the Basis of Acquired Higher Degree

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A teacher in a minority-run educational institute was denied a set of incentive increment owing to her acquiring a higher degree. The aided private school where she works would say that the teacher did not inform them prior to her opting for a higher course and that it is violative of a General Order by the Tamil Nadu government (G.O.Ms.No.944).  The matter was heard and decided upon by Hon’ble Justice J. Nisha Banu.

Facts of the Case

The petitioner is a teacher in St. Xavier’s High School. This school is an aided private educational institution owned and administered by the R.C. Diocese of Tuticorin. It is a religious minority educational institution in terms of Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India.

When the petitioner was appointed to this school, she possessed only a Diploma in Teacher Education (D.T.Ed). However, thereafter she acquired higher qualification through the distance education mode viz., B.A. (English), a degree in December 2008 and B.Ed., in December 2011.

She made such a representation to the School and requested sanction of one set of incentive increments. The High School in turn submitted a proposal in this regard to The District Educational Officer. The District Educational Officer replied that obtaining higher qualifications without prior permission cannot be ratified.

The official respondents filed a counter-affidavit stating that employees working in aided private schools have to obtain prior permission from the Director of School Education to join the correspondence courses as per G.O.Ms.No.944, Education (D2) Department. 

The petitioner filed a petition to amend the prayer challenging the above General Order (G.O.) as it was contrary to the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulation) Act and Rules. The Court had dismissed her petition, citing that this was already challenged in a Writ Petition in 2019, in which, the Division Bench restored the writ petition holding that G.O.No.944 itself has been challenged in the writ petition. 

Arguments

The Counsel for the petitioner submitted with regard to staff working in aided private school, the State Government is not the employer. Thus, the State Government holds no power in the matter at hand. According to Section 51 of the Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulation), the power to grant permission to join correspondence courses in respect of aided school staff does not vest with the Government. Thus, the counsel argued that the impugned order was arbitrary, void, and without jurisdiction.

The Counsel for the petitioner further maintained that under Section 18 (b) of the said Act, the school committee alone is competent to appoint staff, fix their pay and define their duties and conditions of service. As the petitioner is employed in St. Xavier’s High School which is a minority educational institution, it need not constitute a school committee, and the powers of the school committee defined under the Act vest with the educational agency. 

The Counsel placed reliance upon the following judgments: N.K.Geetha vs. The Government of Tamil Nadu, 2009 (1) CTC 463.; The Director of School Education, Chennai vs. Geldon Wilfred Viola and another, 2009 (2) TLNJ 101 (Civil).; )G.Vijayalakshmi vs. Director of Elementary Education, Chennai, W.P(MD)No.18040 of 2014 dated 08.12.2014; and Director of Elementary Education, Chennai, vs. G.Vijayalakshmi and another, (2015) 6 MLJ 315.

The second respondent, The District Educational Officer, filed a counter-affidavit. The Counsel for the respondents submitted that as per G.O.Ms.No.944, Education (D2) Department, prior permission should be obtained from the Director of School Education to join the correspondence courses conducted by the universities. As the petitioner failed to obtain prior permission, she is not entitled to an incentive increment. Further, there is no provision in the Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulation) Act and Rules to grant incentive increment to the teachers working in aided schools.

Court’s Observations

The Court observed that the issue at hand was to decide whether the said General Order is contrary to the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulations) Act and the Rules made thereunder.

The Court noted that the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulations) Act and the Rules made thereunder, are made applicable to the private schools alone and the qualifications are prescribed under Section 56 of the Act. And as such, any Government Order (G.O.) would be applicable to the teachers employed in Government Schools only. 

The Court also observed that Section 18 (b) of the above-mentioned Act, provides for a school committee being competent to appoint staff, fix their pay, and define their duties and conditions of service. Since the school is a minority educational institution, it may not constitute a school committee. 

The Court noted that merely because the petitioner failed to take prior permission for acquiring a higher degree, she does not violate the Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulations) Act. The Court also noted that in case there is a conflict between the statutory provisions and the Government Order, the statutory provisions will prevail and therefore, the petitioner need not get prior permission from the authority for undergoing higher studies. 

Court’s Orders

The Court allowed the Writ Petition. It ordered the respondents viz. The Director of School Education, The District Educational Officer, and The Secretary, Department of Education to sanction two sets of incentive increments to the petitioner for acquiring B.Ed degree and M.A. Degree with effect from 17.07.2012, within a period of twelve weeks. 

Read the Original Judgment here.


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