Court comes to the rescue of atheist teacher
Six years after he was denied a higher pay scale by the school, where he worked as an English teacher, after he refused to fold his hands at prayer time, the Bombay High Court has ruled in Sanjay Salve’s favour.
Savitribai Phule Secondary School, Nasik, had frozen his increments since 2008. The atheist took the school to court, saying compulsory prayer in state-funded schools went against the Constitution. (Pray, what wrong did I do, asks atheist teacher, The Hindu, September 1).
The court ruled that the folding of hands at prayer time in state-funded schools could not be imposed on individuals as it went against Article 28 (3). However, Justice Abhay Oka ruled that Mr. Salve should respectfully remain present at prayers.
The court also asked the management of the school to release his dues before January 31, 2014. “It will be considered contempt of court if they [the management] do not follow the time frame,” said Mr. Salve’s lawyer Sangharaj Rupwate.
At the previous hearing, the school offered an out-of-court settlement, agreeing to pay up his dues. “My struggle has paid off. I did not accept the settlement because I wanted the court to decide on the merits of the case. I felt it could be a precedent,” Mr. Salve told The Hindu. “My family wasn’t too happy that I pursued the case, but now I feel vindicated.”
The school had argued that Mr. Salve’s refusal to fold his hands at prayers was an act of indiscipline and could have impacted students. The school had stopped his increments in 2008 and did not relent, despite letters from the Education Department.