The Sudeep Banerjee Committee Report on the malfunctioning of the NCTE must prompt the Government to act immediately.
The High Court of Calcutta recently held that nearly 75,000 certificates issued by the 142 Primary Teachers Training Institutes (PTTI) in West Bengal would be invalid in the absence of recognition by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE).
Of the 142 such institutes functioning in the State, 58 are run by the State Government and remaining are private. Several of such institutes had the recognition under the West Bengal Primary Education Act 2002. The amendment to the West Bengal Board of Primary Education Act was ratified by the Centre and it is the contention of the West Bengal Government that since the Act was ratified by the Centre, the approval of NCTE was not necessary.
Apart from the students now studying, around 1,42,000 students passed out of the 142 PTTIs since 1995, of which most are employed in the primary schools of the State.
If the order of the Calcutta High Court is given effect to, careers of teachers already employed will be in jeopardy.
The leader of the West Bengal Primary Teachers Training Students’ Union demanded that the Government should think about out of court settlement on this issue.
The situation is not new to West Bengal.
A couple of years ago, when the High Court of Calcutta had de-recognised about 16 institutes conducting B. Ed. programmes for running the programmes without the NCTE’s approval, an ordinance was promulgated amending the NCTE Act, 1993. During the six-month validity period of the ordinance, post-facto approvals were granted to such institutes operating in West Bengal on collection of Rs.12.50 crore by NCTE as compensation.
The ordinance was not placed before the Parliament for ratification. Students and Teachers of West Bengal demand such type of approval in the present case also.
The first moot question is whether in the absence of ratification of ordinance by the Parliament, such approvals granted by the NCTE are valid. Similar situation arose in different circumstances in the State of Bihar in 1989.
Private Sanskrit Schools were taken over by an ordinance in 1989 by the State Government, which was challenged and the matter was argued in the Supreme Court.
In 1998, Justice Sujatha V. Manohar held that ordinance cease to operate beyond the period provided for in the constitution, if the ordinance is not ratified by the Legislature or Parliament. The executive is not expected to take irreversible decisions in the form of ordinances unless the decisions are followed by a law enacted by legislature. Otherwise the constitutional check on the executive’s power to promulgate ordinance will become meaningless.
On the other hand, Justice Wadhma held that consequences following the ordinance are of enduring nature unless reversed by the legislature.
In view of different opinion between the two Judges, the matter was referred to a larger Bench. The matter came up before a Constitution Bench on 23.11.2004 and it decided to post the matter before 7-Judges Bench.
Hence, the matter is still undecided as to whether non-placement of an ordinance before the Legislature/Parliament will nullify all the acts done under the ordinance.
Hence, the approvals granted to West Bengal institutions are likely to be questioned.
Further, the amendment to the Act was only to overrule the judgement of the Calcutta High Court and it was incurable.
This point also stares at the face of NCTE.
The present scenario at West Bengal is more serious than compared to 2006 which resulted in issuance of ordinance, whose applicability is a matter before the Supreme Court.
Besides, the functioning of the NCTE is also not satisfactory. The Review Committee was constituted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) under the Chairmanship of Sudeep Banerjee, former Secretary, MHRD, to conduct an in depth study of the function of the NCTE and its Regional Committees in the wake of numerous complaints about the NCTE.
In its report the Committee has stated that (1) the NCTE paid scant attention to the quality of training and curriculum while fostering privatisation in teacher education, (2) NCTE had failed in its endeavour, and (3) not only had the NCTE been derelict in its duties, the apex teacher education body had promoted commercialisation and unplanned proliferation of teacher education institutes.
NCTE has moved away from its mandate of ensuring quality teacher education and was pre-occupied with granting approvals, it noted.
On March 10, 2008, while replying to an unstarred question in Rajya Sabha, it was stated that the Government is taking further action on the recommendations of the Committee to repeal the NCTE Act.
This assurance given to the Parliament was extended up to 13.11.08.
It is high time that the Central Government act to repeal the Act.
Last year, one of the Regional Directors of NCTE was arrested for having assets disproportionate to his known sources of income running into crores of rupees, besides running three B. Ed. Colleges and one engineering college.
It is reported now that in Udaipur, a few days ago, in a raid conducted by CBI, the officials of the National Council for Teacher Education were nabbed for taking bribe to clear the affiliation of some institutes for B. Ed. Course.
With the tall order of the Supreme Court in mind and to prevent commercialisation of education, the NCTE was formed in 1993 with statutory powers. Sudeep Banerjee Committee Report highlights the malfunctioning of the NCTE. The Government must act immediately.
PROF. R. SETHURAMAN,
SASTRA University, Thanjavur