HC directs School Education Secretary to reply by Feb 17

The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday directed the School Education Secretary to file a counter affidavit in reply to a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking appointment of sanitary workers in all government schools in order to curb the practice of some schools forcing their students to clean the campus and toilets.

A Division Bench of Justice Satish K. Agnihotri and Justice R. Sudhakar ordered that the counter affidavit should be filed on or before February 17.

The judges said that they were not satisfied with the Tirunelveli District Elementary Educational Officer (DEEO), a junior-level officer, having filed a counter affidavit in a serious issue related to schoolchildren.

The PIL petition was filed by M. Suresh of Kottarankulam in Tirunelveli district in 2011.

It was supported by photographs, reportedly shot with a mobile phone camera, of small children wearing school uniform and holding broomsticks and buckets. The petitioner’s counsel R. Alagumani claimed that those photographs were shot inside the toilet of an elementary school in Kottarankulam.

‘Common practice’

Stating that cleaning of school toilets by students was a common practice in many government schools, he had sought a direction to appoint sanitary workers in all schools.

However, refuting the charges, the DEEO accused the petitioner of having filed the case with mala fide intention as his wife had failed to secure the job of a noon-meal worker in the school.

He asserted that the photographs produced by the petitioner were not shot inside the school premises. The officer also said that engaging Class D employees, apart from the post of Office Assistants, was being outsourced to private institutions in view of a Government Order passed on May 14, 2002 and such private employees were carrying out sanitary work in government schools.

Only students enrolled in social service movements such as National Service Scheme, Junior Red Cross and Scouts and Guides were engaged in “making mud roads, cleaning the village and creating awareness among villagers to keep their surroundings clean as part of their extracurricular activities,” the DEEO said in the counter affidavit.

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