The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has directed the Chief Educational Officer (CEO), Thoothukudi, to grant recognition to the primary section (Classes I - V) of a school run by a Christian minority educational institution.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Esther Santham Higher Secondary School in Megnanapuram in Thoothukudi district, founded by International Youth Fellowship in Christ, a registered trust, in 2005.
The school originally had Classes XI and XII and later Classes from VI to X were added. In 2021, the school wanted to add a primary section. An application was submitted to the CEO.
Since the application was not processed, a petition was filed before the court and the court directed the authorities to decide on the petition. Subsequently, the application was scrutinised and returned. Challenging the action, the present petition was filed.
The authorities said the primary school should be established separately. The land should be obtained in the name of the school, an endowment should be created and prior permission obtained. Representing the school, advocate M. Joseph Thatheus Jerome said the defects pointed out by the authorities were unsustainable in law.
Justice G.R. Swaminathan observed that the educational agency had a guaranteed fundamental right under Article 30 of the Constitution. The Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulation) Act enabled establishment of minority schools without prior permission.
Rule 3 (d) (ii) of the Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulation) Rules would define a higher secondary school as one consisting of Classes I to XII. In the present case, the educational agency started a higher secondary section and added the high school section later. Now it wanted to add the primary section.
The judge took note of the fact that the educational agency owned land measuring 7.5 acres. The school building occupied 2.3 acres. The petitioner had produced the stability and no-objection certificates issued by Fire and Rescue Services and other departments.
It was not open to the authorities to divide the school into four compartments — primary school, middle school, high school and higher secondary school. The primary school did not have to function on a separate campus. The educational agency could start a primary section within the existing campus, the judge said.
Education Department could not demand creation of an endowment fund from a minority institution as a condition for recognition, the judge said, and directed the CEO to issue order of recognition for the primary section with effect from 2021-2022 academic year.