Calcutta, July 12: The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations has suspended its chief executive and secretary, Gerry Arathoon, on the charge of promoting two textbooks authored by his wife Anita without the council’s permission.
“A chargesheet has been issued to Mr Arathoon. The council has found that his wife has written a book whose preface states that it has been written in keeping with the pattern of questions set by the ICSE (the Class X exam),” council chairman Father Jose Aikara told The Telegraph from Bangalore.
“This is objectionable because her husband heads the council which runs the ICSE curriculum. An inquiry is pending. He will be under suspension till further notice.”
Anita, a former teacher at Calcutta Girls’ School, has authored two guidebooks for ICSE students of Classes IX and X — The Merchant of Venice-Text with Paraphrase and The Merchant of Venice Workbook.
The books were published last year and their sale began several months ago. But Arathoon had not informed the council, a source in the council said.
Under the council’s service rules, every official must inform the council and take its approval before starting sales of a book if it has been written by the official or a relative.
Two months ago, Arathoon had been issued a showcause notice. The council was not satisfied with his reply and issued the chargesheet yesterday.
Arathoon must respond within 15 days. His reply will be placed before the council’s executive committee and a formal inquiry will follow.
“The secretary is in charge of all exam-related responsibilities and if a relative of his is writing books for the ICSE, allegations of a conflict of interest are bound to arise,” a council official said.
Calls to the phones of Arathoon and Anita, now settled in Delhi, went unanswered.
William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice is taught in Classes IX and X in over 2,000 schools affiliated to the council across the country, including nearly 400 in Bengal.
This isn’t the first time the council has suspended its highest administrative officer. A decade ago, then chief executive and secretary Francis Fanthome was suspended and later dismissed on charges of promoting books for ICSE schools authored by him.
The council had then introduced the clause in its rules barring senior officials and their relatives from writing and selling books for the ICSE and ISC (Classes XI and XII) curricula without its permission.
Lancelot J. Fuller, deputy secretary of the council, will officiate as the chief executive and secretary in Arathoon’s absence, the chairman said.
Schools have to interact regularly with the secretary on various matters, from registering students to appointing examiners and reviewing marks. The registration of Class IX and Class XI students is now under way.
“The schools regularly have to be in touch with the council during the registration process. We will ensure that the schools do not face any difficulty,” a source in the council said.
Father Aikara today sent an email to the principals of all the affiliated schools informing them about the suspension.
“The executive committee of the council has decided that during the period of suspension, all responsibilities of the chief executive and secretary of the council will be carried out by Lancelot J. Fuller, deputy secretary, CISCE,” the council chairman wrote in the letter.
Vivek Bharadwaj, a joint secretary in the Union coal ministry who was the Centre’s representative in the council in 2003-04, demanded a greater government role in the council’s running.
“There should be more government say in the (running of) the ICSE so that such things do not recur. Such things have never happened in the CBSE board,” he said.