The Supreme Court on Thursday, refusing to stay at this stage the Madras High Court judgment striking down as unconstitutional an amendment to the Tamil Nadu Uniform System of School Education Act, extended the time limit for distribution of textbooks till August 2.
The High Court by its July 18 judgment had directed the State to forthwith distribute the textbooks printed under the Uniform System of School Education to enable teachers to commence classes and said “such distribution shall be completed on or before July 22.”
A three-judge Bench of Justice J.M. Panchal, Justice Deepak Verma and Justice B.S. Chauhan, after hearing counsel for the parties said that in the interest of 1.23 crore students, it would hear the batch of appeals from July 26 and decide the matter finally. Justice Panchal told counsel, “We are not staying the impugned judgment. We are issuing notice. You complete your pleadings before July 26.”
A battery of lawyers led by senior counsel P.P. Rao, Mukul Rohatgi, Advocate General S. Navaneethakrishnan, Additional Advocate General in Supreme Court Guru Krishna Kumar, appeared for the State. Senior counsel Rohinton Nariman, Rajeev Dhavan and Aryama Sundaram appeared on behalf of matriculation schools in support of the government. Senior counsel A. K. Ganguly, M.N. Krishnamani, R. Viduthalai and Prashant Bhushan, appeared on behalf of students and parents.
When Mr. P.P. Rao submitted that “the textbooks are of sub-standard nature and prepared in haste and hurry and the High Court directions could not be implemented this year,” Justice Verma asked counsel “what would happen to Rs. 200 crore spent on these books already printed?”
Mr. Rao said, “We [State] are for implementing the Uniform System of School Education. We want to review the syllabus and textbooks and implement it from next year. The syllabus does not conform to the principles of National Curriculum Framework 2005. It would be appropriate and effective if introduction is done in a phased manner. The Samacheer Kalvi textbooks cannot be used for the academic year 2011-2012 as they require a lot of alterations, modifications and changes in order to provide good quality education to all the children in the State.”
When Mr. Rao submitted that the expert committee appointed pursuant to the directions of the Supreme Court had faulted the uniform syllabus, Justice Panchal pointed out that the views of the committee “do not reflect the views of the individual members of the committee.”
Mr. Nariman pointed out that there would be practical difficulties in implementing the High Court direction to supply students an additional booklet after three months.
Mr. Ganguly, however, said the uniform system was introduced after four years of extensive study and research. The Cabinet took a decision not to implement the system within one day of assuming office. Certain portions in the objectionable textbooks were deleted and over nine crore textbooks were printed at a cost of Rs. 200 crore and kept ready for distribution.