Supreme Court Halts Tripura Government Decision to Accommodate 10,323 Teachers in Non-Teaching Jobs

The Supreme Court’s decision holds particular interest in poll-bound Tripura as the BJP is looking to corner the Manik Sarkar government on the issue.

Supreme Court of India. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The fate of 10,323 government teachers in Tripura hangs in the balance yet again after the Supreme Court, earlier this week, postponed the hearing of a contempt petition challenging the state government’s decision to recruit them as non-teaching employees.

On October 24, a division bench of the apex court comprising Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit, postponed the hearing of the petition – filed by an unemployed youth from the state – till January next year.

The Supreme Court’s decision holds particular interest in the poll-bound state as the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is leaving no stone unturned to wrest power from the Left, is looking to corner the Manik Sarkar government on the issue.

In March this year, the Supreme Court upheld a 2014 Tripura high court order which terminated the services of 10,323 government teachers employed by the state government in 2010 and 2013 as they were appointed by a policy not compliant to the obligatory qualifications mandated by the Right to Education Act (RTE), 2009. The Supreme Court asked the state government to initiate a fresh recruitment policy under the Teachers Eligibility Test as prescribed under the RTE Act by May 31 and complete the process by December 31.

In May this year, the state government purportedly tried to circumvent the Supreme Court’s order by announcing the recruitment of 12,000 non-teaching staff in the education department. This was a result of the criticism the state government was facing at the hands of the opposition – particularly the BJP – as the employees would likely lose their jobs due to their ineligibility under the Act. The posts, which required a minimum of three years of teaching experience, included that of academic counsellor (1,200 posts), student counsellor (3,400), school library assistant (1,500), hostel warden (300) and school assistant (5,600). As per local media reports, the decision was ostensibly to “accommodate” those teachers.

However, on September 17, the Supreme Court admitted the contempt petition in which the youth accused the state government of attempting to nullify the earlier order of the Supreme Court by appointing them as non-teaching staff, and also of contempt of court.

Hearing the petition on October 4, the court clamped a ban on recruitment of the non-teaching staff till October 24, the next date of hearing. On October 24, it postponed the hearing till next January.

Reacting to the October 24 decision, state education minister Tapan Chakraborty told reporters in Agartala that though the court didn’t term the decision of the state government a contempt of court, the state government can’t recruit the non-teaching staff as the petition is still being heard and the matter is sub-judice. He said the state government has full authority to recruit non-teaching staff as they don’t come under the RTE Act.

The ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) has, however, alleged that the youth had been “sponsored” by the BJP to file the petition. The BJP has denied it.

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