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 two selection rounds.
The court’s interim stay restraining the state education department from giving effect to its October 19 notification put a question mark on the future of 55 lakh candidates who had applied to fill 34,000 vacancies. The October notification invited applications from both trained and untrained candidates across the state. Admit cards have also been issued to many of them.
Justice Debasish Kargupta today said: “A huge government exchequer is involved in the matter. If this court does not pass any stay order and allows the state to continue with the selection process, the government would have suffered 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 to trained candidates from the first phase of selection.
The teachers’ eligibility test is the first tier of the three-phased 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 overall, or final, round.
But this rule deviates from those set by the National Council for Teachers’ Education (NCTE), the apex body on primary teachers’ training. The NCTE rules say that PTTI-trained teachers should get preference from the first round.
The NCTE rules, however, do not say that PTTI-trained teachers need not sit for the test at all.
Two PTTI-trained candidates — Arnab Bhowmik from Howrah and Shyamal Maity of 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 to trained candidates in the third round would not help those PTTI aspirants who got eliminated in the initial rounds.
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 said that trained teachers would have to be given preference in appointment.”
He argued: “A person who will score 60 per cent or above in the test will be called for the next two rounds of screening now. 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 at the later stage.”
Appearing for the state, government pleader Ashok Banerjee said the state was interested in filling the vacant posts. “The primary schools in the state are suffering from scarcity of teachers and education process is being hampered badly. 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 had said “all candidates — trained or untrained — would have to write the test”.
He added that “there is no mention of exempting the trained candidates from writing the test. We can’t even lower the cut-off marks for the trained candidates. Therefore, the only way to give preference to trained candidates was at the later phases of screening.”
Admit cards for the test have been despatched by the West Bengal Primary Education Board to all applicants.
When asked about the stay, education minister Bratya Basu said: “We have heard about the judgment and are looking into the matter.”