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Council split over Arathoon

The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations is divided over the action to be taken against suspended secretary and chief executive Gerry Arathoon, accused of promoting textbooks written by his wife without the council’s permission.

Sources said Arathoon would reply to the chargesheet on Thursday. The reply will be placed before the executive committee of the council, which holds the ISC and ICSE exams. “Arathoon will have to reply by Thursday. An inquiry will start after we get his reply,” council chairman Father Aikara told Metro.

One group in the council’s general body believes Arathoon should be allowed to continue with a reprimand because an action against the highest official will tarnish the council’s image. The other group feels the image would be tarnished more in the absence of a strong action.

“The council should immediately call a meeting of the general body and withdraw the suspension,” demanded a member of the council.

Another member said the council, which has some of the best schools in the country affiliated to it, would set a “bad example” if it refrains from taking strong action against Arathoon. “The allegations against Arathoon relates to students’ academic development,” said the principal of an ICSE school.

Of the 2,000-plus schools affiliated to the council, around 400 are in Bengal. Among the prominent schools in Calcutta under the council are the two La Martinieres, St. Xavier’s, the Don Boscos, the Loreto schools, St. James’, Calcutta Boys and Calcutta Girls, Welland Gouldsmith and the Queen of the Missions.

A decade ago, then chief executive Francis Fanthome had been suspended and later dismissed for promoting books authored by him without the council’s nod. The inquiry against Fanthome continued for three and a half years. “The council had to spend nearly a crore on the inquiry and the legal battles against him,” said a source.

Another source said the principals of some non-Anglo-Indian schools, mostly from Calcutta, have written to the chairman, requesting him to withdraw the suspension. “The Anglo-Indian schools, on the other hand, are planning to write to the council, demanding strong action against Arathoon.”

The heads of both groups of schools will meet on Thursday to discuss Arathoon’s suspension.

Some non-Anglo-Indian schools have urged the council to ask Arathoon’s wife Anita to withdraw her books, following which the council, too, should withdraw the suspension.

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.