The Madras High Court on Friday said the levy of penalty under section 11 of the Uniform System of School Education Act for violation of norms is unreasonable.

Striking down the provision in the legislation, a Division Bench comprising Justices Prabha Sridevan and P.P.S. Janarthana Raja, while passing orders on petitions challenging the legislation, said that it had already held that imposing strict and rigid norms could not be right.

The Bench said that since it had held that there could not be strict and rigid norms, it was striking down sections 11 and 12 of the impugned Act. The Bench said section 14 of the Act provided that the State Common Board of School Education should be bound by the directions of the Government.

It concluded that the implementation of the syllabus and textbooks was being postponed till the next academic year or until the State made known the norms and the syllabus and prepared the textbooks in advance.

In the meantime, the State would bring the provisions of the impugned Act in line with the Central Act, Right to Education Act. For example, the State should specify by notification, the Academic Authority and the State Advisory Council.

The government should also indicate what the approved textbooks were. The schools were bound to follow the common syllabus only for the curricular subjects and not the co-curricular subjects.

The schools may choose from multiple textbooks, viz government produced textbooks, which were the prescribed textbooks and the government approved textbooks, in all subjects, both curricular and co-curricular.

The Bench said the schools should follow the norms as far as they were practicable. There could be no board examinations up to the level of elementary education, but assessment norms may be specified. The schools which taught all the subjects in a language other than Tamil or English should inform the competent authority of the language of their choice; in view of a Full Bench decision, the approval is automatic.

Dealing with section 14, the Bench said it could not allow schools, the teachers and above all the children to be tossed and buffeted by political vicissitudes.

The ambitious effort undertaken by the State to bring in social justice and to have quality education would all come to a naught if the selection of teachers was not made properly. The State would have to look at amendments to rules relating to recruitment of teachers.

The Bench disposed of the writ petitions.