Over a year since the School Education Department informed the court of its plan

It is more than a year since the School Education Department informed the Madras High Court of plans to replace existing laws governing private schools in the State with “one common comprehensive Act.”

Yet, no such enactment had been passed so far much to the disappointment of teachers serving in government aided minority schools.

Teachers of such schools had lost their right to prefer statutory appeal to the School Education Department authorities challenging departmental action initiated against them by the school managements ever since the Madras High Court in 1975 made certain provisions of the Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulation) Act 1974 inapplicable to minority schools.

According to T.N. Vidyanandan, an 83-year-old former principal of a linguistic minority school, the judgement passed by a Division Bench of the High Court on December 17, 1975 was used by several minority school managements to “hire and fire teachers at their will though the salaries of those teachers were paid not by the school managements but by the government.”

The State took the Division Bench’s judgement on appeal and the Supreme Court in 2003 remitted the matter back to the High Court with a direction to consider it in the light of the judgement passed by the apex court in the much celebrated T.M.A. Pai Foundation case in 2002.

The Supreme Court also said that status quo shall continue until the High Court disposed of the matter.

The High Court closed the case on October 10, 2012 after recording a submission made by the then Joint Director of School Education that “it was only a matter of time” before laws governing private schools in the State were replaced with a comprehensive Act in the light of the introduction of uniform syllabus in schools and implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.”

The submission was made through a counter affidavit filed by the Advocate General. The court recorded the submission and ordered maintenance of status quo, prevailing since the 1975 judgement, until the State Government came out with the new comprehensive Act.

“Nothing transpired after that. In the meantime, I sent a representation to the School Education Department. Replying to it on May 13 this year, the Director of School Education said his department could not interfere in disciplinary action taken against teachers of minority schools in view of the judgements passed by the High Court in 1975 and 2012,” Mr. Vidyanandan said.

When his reaction was sought, M. Palanisamy, the incumbent Joint Director of School Education (Secondary Schools) said the issue of enacting a new law to regulate private schools was being dealt with by the Directorate of Matriculation Schools.

“They have submitted a report to the State Government and the matter is under consideration,” he added.

On his part, M.C. Abilash, secretary, Private School Correspondents Confederation, said that there was no need for teachers to panic as even unaided private schools do not suspend or dismiss teachers without a proper enquiry. “Teachers in minority schools enjoy many benefits and taking action against them involves a lot of procedures,” he added.