Bench orders back wages for former teacher.
A teacher whose service is illegally terminated can file a writ petition in a constitutional court to protect her fundamental rights against a private unaided school, the Supreme Court has held.
Whether government or private school, both “perform public functions i.e. providing education to children in their institutions throughout India.”
A Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra made the observations while dismissing an appeal filed by Marwari Balika Vidyalaya, a private unaided educational institution, against its former teacher, Asha Srivastava.
A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court, acting on a writ petition filed by the teacher, had in 2009 ordered the institution to pay Ms. Srivastava her back wages. But the school reneged, contending that a writ petition would not be maintainable against a private unaided institution.
Writ petitions are usually filed by citizens against the state and its agencies to protect their fundamental rights.
But the apex court disagreed with the argument of the school. “While the functioning of both aided and unaided educational institutions must be free from unnecessary governmental interference, the same needs to the reconciled with the conditions of employment of the employees of these institutions and provision of adequate precautions to safeguard their interests,” the Supreme Court said.
The court referred to how the procedural safeguard of Section 8(2) of the Delhi School Education Act to ensure that order of termination or dismissal is not passed without the prior approval of the Director of Education applies to all schools.
“Section 8(2) of the DSE Act is one such precautionary safeguard which needs to be followed to ensure that employees of educational institutions do not suffer unfair treatment at the hands of the management,” the court pointed out.
“A public duty does not necessarily have to be one imposed by statute. It may be sufficient for the duty to have been imposed by charter, common law, custom or even contract,” the court observed.
The court finally upheld the High Court decision while observing that termination of Ms. Srivastava’s service was clearly arbitrary and the order was illegal and void. It said she should indeed be paid her back wages.
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