Calcutta, Dec. 13: Calcutta High Court today stayed the primary teacher recruitment test and told the government to explain why it had decided not to give preference to trained candidates in the first of the three-stage selection process.
The interim stay on the education department’s October 19 notification put a question mark on the future of 55 lakh candidates who had applied for 34,000 vacancies. The notification invited applications from both trained and untrained candidates across the state for the December 23 exam. Admit cards have already been issued.
Justice Debasish Kargupta said: “A huge government exchequer (expense) is involved in the matter. If this court does not pass any stay and allows the state to continue with the selection process, the government would suffer a huge loss in exchequer.”
The court fixed the matter for hearing after the Christmas vacation and told the government to file an affidavit giving reasons behind its decision not to give preference from the first phase of selection to trained candidates.
The teachers’ eligibility test is the first tier of the screening, the interview being the second round and an overall assessment the third.
According to state government rules, candidates trained in primary teachers’ training institutes (PTTIs) would get 20 marks grace in the final round.
But this rule is at odds with those set by the National Council for Teachers’ Education (NCTE), the apex body on primary teachers’ training. The NCTE says PTTI-trained teachers should get preference from the first round.
The verdict came as another setback for the government after the high court four days ago struck down a notification cancelling the registration of three police unions — a clean-up measure that fell through because of haste-driven disregard for procedures that has repeatedly hurt the new government.
Two PTTI-trained candidates — Arnab Bhowmik from Howrah and Shyamal Maity from East Midnapore — questioned the state’s logic for not giving trained candidates preference right from the beginning of the selection process. They contended that awarding 20 marks in the third round would not help those PTTI aspirants who get eliminated in the first two stages.
The petitioners’ advocate, Subrata Mukhopadhyay, had said: “It is a fact that the Centre had given the state relaxation in recruiting candidates in primary teachers’ posts. But the central permission was based on a condition…. The Centre says trained teachers will have to be given preference.”
He argued: “For instance, a person who may score 60 per cent or above in the written test could be called for the next two rounds of screening. But if a trained candidate is eliminated in the test, he or she won’t be able to get the advantage the board has planned for them in the last stage.”
Government pleader Ashok Banerjee urged the court not to stay the process, saying the state was interested in filling the vacant posts. “The primary schools are suffering from scarcity of teachers and the education process is being hampered. So the government had taken the decision to allow the untrained candidates to sit in the selection test. The court should not restrain the government from continuing the selection process.”
A senior official in the state primary board said the NCTE required “all candidates — trained or untrained — to write the test”.
“There is no mention of exempting the trained candidates from writing the test. We can’t even lower the cut-off marks for them. Therefore, the only way to give preference was at the later phases of screening.”
Asked about the stay, education minister Bratya Basu said: “We have heard about the judgment and are looking into the matter.”