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Stay on TET in dispute over deadline

- Cloud on non-BEd clause

Calcutta High Court on Thursday stayed the school service commission’s teacher eligibility test (TET) slated for March 29, plunging into doubt the eligibility of almost 10 lakh candidates who don’t have a BEd degree.

Justice Debasish Kargupta passed the interim order in response to a batch of petitions moved by 70 candidates who had cleared TET last year but weren’t recruited. They had been asked to take the test again on March 29 to be eligible for the nearly 12,000 vacant posts of assistant teachers for classes V to VIII.

The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) had set March 31 as the last date for the school service commission to appoint untrained assistant teachers for schools across Bengal. The rider was that the selected candidates would get a BEd degree within two years of their recruitment.

Sources in the school service commission said they had already met the deadline by starting the recruitment process on January 29 through advertisements for the vacant posts.

But advocates Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya and Subrata Mukhopadhyay, representing the petitioners, argued that scheduling the recruitment test two days before the deadline wasn’t the same as appointing teachers latest by March 31.

“The NCTE had relaxed its rules for five years for Bengal and allowed non-BEd candidates to seek teaching jobs in schools till March 31, 2014. Since the exam is being held just two days before the March 31 deadline, it means that even if the untrained candidates clear the test they would not get the jobs. If they do, it would be a violation of the directive. So non-BEd teachers should not be allowed to sit in this year’s examination,” senior counsel Bhattacharyya said.

Neither the NCTE nor the school service commission would officially comment on the status of the recruitment process.

Subiresh Bhattacharya, the chairman of the commission, said on Thursday afternoon that he was yet to receive a copy of the court’s order.

Around 10 lakh candidates were to write the eligibility test, of whom an estimated 70 per cent do not have a BEd degree yet.

In 2009, the NCTE made it mandatory for anyone seeking a teaching job in a school to have a BEd degree. It eased the rules in 2011, fixing March 31, 2014, as the deadline for Bengal to recruit untrained teachers on condition that they would get the requisite degree within two years of their appointment.

The Right to Education Act too makes BEd a compulsory qualification for all schoolteachers.

Advocates Bhattacharyya and Mukhopadhyay sought a stay on the process of recruitment on the premise that the government would be unable to complete the recruitment process by March 31.

“According to (NCTE) norms, trained candidates (those with a BEd degree) who once clear TET should get priority in recruitment over the next seven years if they haven’t been recruited already. The petitioners cleared TET last year and were kept on the waiting list. Why has the commission asked these candidates to appear for TET again?” Bhattacharyya said.

Justice Kargupta asked state advocate-general Bimal Chatterjee to clarify the government’s stand on the petition. When Chatterjee pleaded for time, the judge adjourned the hearing till April 21.

“Let me know your government’s view first. Till then, I am adjourning the hearing on the case and passing a stay order on holding TET,” the judge said.