Giving relief to over 66,000 teachers in Uttar Pradesh who were appointed for imparting free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said that "right to education was a right to quality education".
Ordering that 66,655 teachers who were appointed in wake of its March 25, 2014 interim order need not be disturbed, the bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit in their judgment said: "To make the right to education meaningful, a qualified teacher undoubtedly has significant role."
"It goes without saying that 'right to education is right to quality education'," the bench said noting that several occasions in the past, the court has expressed "concern over unsatisfactory quality of education".
"We have been informed that 66,655 teachers have already been appointed in pursuance of the interim orders of this Court. Having regard to the entirety of circumstances, we are not inclined to disturb the same," the court said in its judgment while giving liberty to the Uttar Pradesh government to "fill up the remaining vacancies in accordance with law after issuing a fresh advertisement".
Terming the fundamental right to free and compulsory education as one of the most important rights, Justice Goel, speaking for the bench, said: "We are unable to agree that even unqualified teachers ought to be allowed to continue ignoring the legislative mandate or that we should exercise our jurisdiction under Article 142 to undo the said mandate."
The court's stance came while not accepting the plea that it should take recou rse to its plenary powers under Article 142 to save the jobs of 1.78 lakh Shiksha Mitras that were appointed in Uttar Pradesh in breach of the requisite qualifications.
The "consideration for career of 1.78 lakh Shiksha Mitras, over and above their legal right, cannot be at the cost of fundamental right of children to free quality education by duly quali fied teachers in terms of legislative mandate", it said.
Addressing the question whether benefit once given to them (even unlawfully) should be withdrawn, the court said: "In view of clear mandate of law statutorily requiring minimum qualification for appointment of teachers to be appointed ... there is no doubt that no appointment was permissible without such qualifications."
Upholding the findings of September 12, 2015 Allahabad High Court judgment, the court said that the appointment of "Shiksha Mitras was not only contractual, it was not as per qualification prescribed for a teacher nor on designation of teacher nor in pay scale of teachers. Thus, they could not be regularised as teachers".
"Regularisation could only be of mere irregularity", the court said, adding that the question now is that whether in absence of any right in their favour, were they entitled to any other relief or preference.
Citing the peculiar situation, the court said: "They ought to be given opportunity to be considered for recruitment if they have acquired or they now acquire the requisite qualification in terms of advertisements for recruitment for next two consecutive recruitments."
It also said that this category may also be given suitable age relaxation and some weightage for their experience as may be decided by the authorities concerned.
Till they avail of this opportunity, the state is at liberty to continue them as Shiksha Mitras on same terms on which they were working prior to their absorption, if the state so decides, the court said.