The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tough on teachers, good or bad
- Wall before court door

Calcutta, Oct. 5: The government today announced it will soon set up a School Education Tribunal along the lines of the State Administrative Tribunal for government employees to prevent teachers from rushing to court for redressal.

The move comes in the wake of a series of court cases filed by aggrieved teachers to whom the government was ordered to pay huge sums as compensation.

School education minister Kanti Biswas said a bill proposing the setting up of the tribunal will be tabled in the Assembly during its winter session. Bengal will be the first state to set up a tribunal to address disputes pertaining to school education.

'We are worried over the manner the government is having to pay huge compensation to teachers on the basis of court orders. We are losing many of the cases not because our system is at fault, but because it is becoming difficult to keep track of the increasing number of cases involving school education with our existing mechanism. We are failing to pursue the cases properly and losing them,' Biswas said.

Once the tribunal starts functioning, all disputes relating to school education ' grievances of teachers, non-teaching employees as well as managing committees of all 63,000 state-aided primary and secondary schools across Bengal ' will first have to be placed before the tribunal.

The proposed tribunal will be headed by a retired or sitting judge, said an official. The aggrieved will be allowed to take the matter to court only if the tribunal fails to put right the problem.

At present, teachers, non-teaching staff and the school managing committees can head straight to court if they have a grievance.

In two recent cases where the verdict went against the education department, Calcutta High Court ordered the government to pay Rs 54 lakh as compensation to a Howrah schoolteacher and nearly Rs 8 lakh to a teacher in Calcutta. Both teachers had challenged the government for not confirming them even after 30 years.

'We are spending more than Rs 2 crore every year in fighting court cases. The bulk of this amount is spent on paying compensation to teachers. We hope to reduce the expenditure under this head after the tribunal is set up,' Biswas said.

Sources in the education department said 15,000 school education cases are pending in court. Most of them involve disputes over teaching and non-teaching jobs, promotion-related allegations, fixing of pay-scales and post-retirement benefits.

Biswas was recently given the green signal for the tribunal by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

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