Rejecting a woman teacher’s stand that her school could not compel her to attend an annual staff retreat, the Madras High Court said it could not fault the school management for issuing such an order in order to maintain discipline at the school.

Disposing of her appeal, a Bench said, “The propriety of such an action cannot be questioned by her.” Dolly Deniese, the teacher, was suspended for a month by Don Bosco Matriculation Higher Secondary School, for not attending an annual staff retreat in 2008. She challenged the suspension order before the Madras High Court and also claimed damages for loss of reputation and humiliation. In 2009, a single judge held that she had ‘wilfully’ disobeyed the direction issued by the school management to attend the retreat and her absence would amount to insubordination.

Dismissing her civil suit, the single judge also said Dolly should have attended the retreat, as it was being conducted to preserve the cultural and religious identity of Christians. Such a retreat was part of the curriculum to equip the teaching staff to impart religious as well as secular education to Christian students of the school.

Aggrieved by the order, Ms. Deniese filed an appeal. She contended that the school management had no authority under the law to compel her to attend the event. Such a compulsion would infringe on her fundamental rights. Thought the Bench rejected her contention, it said the punishment imposed on her could not be sustained as she had informed the principal in-charge of the school that she would not be able to attend the retreat. Setting aside the single judge’s order, the Bench also said Ms. Deniese was not in a position to substantiate her claim for damages.

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