A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice Siva Kirti Singh and Justice R. Banumati, on 9 November 2016, upheld relaxation of 5% marks to reserved category candidates in the Tamil Nadu State Teachers Eligibility Test (TET). This order was passed in CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10700 OF 2016 [V. LAVANYA & ORS. VS. STATE OF TAMIL NADU] and several other matters that were heard along with it. This case related to appointment of Secondary Grade Teachers and B.T. Assistants in the State of Tamil Nadu as per the Guidelines prescribed by National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) in this regard. There were conflicting judgments passed by both Madras and Madurai Bench of the High Court of Madras in this regard. Full judgment of the court is reproduced below.
The dispute revolved around the relaxation of 5% marks to reserved category candidates in the State Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) approved by the state government, which was allegedly in contravention of the norms to that effect embodied in the notification dated 23.08.2010 issued by the NCTE.
Pursuant to the mandate of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the NCTE laid down minimum qualifications for a person to be eligible for appointment as a Teacher through a Notification dated 11.02.2011. As per the said Notification: “…to be eligible for appointment as a teacher if any of the schools referred to in clause (n) of section 2 of the RTE Act is that he/she should pass the teacher eligibility test (TET) which will be conducted by the appropriate Government in accordance with the Guidelines framed by the NCTE”. NCTE Guidelines prescribed 60% marks to be declared as pass in TET. The said Guidelines enabled the State Government to grant concession to persons belonging to Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, other Backward Classes, differently-abled persons etc.
The principal bench of the Madras High Court dismissed the writ appeals and writ petitions holding that the challenge to the policy decision of the government can sustain only if it suffers from arbitrariness and unreasonableness which did not surface in these cases. It was held that writ petitioners/writ appellants are non-suited to challenge the procedure adopted in granting weightage to marks obtained in the basic qualification required. However, the Madurai bench quashed the relaxation given to the reserved category candidates and observed that the argument that relaxation was necessary to advance social justice is nothing but a myth and is devoid of any factual data and analysis.
The Supreme Court held that:
“The idea behind laying down NCTE Guidelines for conducting TET was to bring about uniformity and certainty in the standards and quality of education being imparted to the students across the nation. However, at the same time the framers of the guidelines took note of the huge socio-economic disparity existing in the nation and accordingly, by virtue of Clause No. 9 enabled the respective state governments/authorities to provide relaxation to the candidates belonging to socially backward classes. As discussed earlier, such a provision is in line with the principles enshrined in the Constitution. State Government cannot be faulted for discharging its constitutional obligation of upliftment of socially and economically backward Communities by providing 5% relaxation to candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste, Schedule Tribes, Backward Classes, Backward Classes (Muslim), Most Backward Classes, De-notified Communities and Persons with Disability (PWD).”
The Supreme Court noted that the State of Rajasthan by its Notification dated 29.07.2011 had granted similar relaxation of 5% marks in the qualifying marks relatable to TET exams conducted in the State of Rajasthan. The Rajasthan High Court had struck down the relaxation granted by the State of Rajasthan on the ground that such relaxation was in excess of extant reservation policy. However, in the case of Vikas Sankhala and Ors. v. Vikas Kumar Agarwal and Ors., (2016) 10 SCALE 163, the Supreme Court had reversed the judgment of the Rajasthan High Court holding that State has a legitimate right in granting such relaxation to SC/ST, OBC etc.
The Supreme Court further held as under:
“Granting relaxation to SC/ST, OBC, physically handicapped and de-notified communities is in furtherance of the constitutional obligation of the State to the under-privileged and create an equal level-playing field. After referring to clause 9 of the NCTE Guidelines, the Madras High Court rightly held that the Government of Tamil Nadu has acted in exercise of the powers conferred under clause 9 of the Guidelines issued by the NCTE. Madurai Bench was not right in quashing G.O.(Ms.) No.25 dated 06.02.2014 on the ground that such relaxation “based upon the theory of social justice is actually destructive of the very fabric of the social justice”. In our considered view, the judgment of the Madurai Bench has not kept in view the constitutional obligation of the State to provide equal level-playing field to the under privileged. In consonance with the M. Nagaraj case, an affirmative action taken by State Government granting relaxation for TET would not amount to dilution of standards and hence the view taken by the Madurai Bench is not sustainable and is liable to be set aside.”
Read the full judgment of the Supreme Court: