The Supreme Court has expressed "strong displeasure" over the manner in which the Bihar government was treating school teachers, dragging them to courts for 35 years instead of treating them honourably and giving them an appropriate salary.
"The state government must realise that in a country where there is so much illiteracy, and where there are such a large number of first-generation students, the role of the primary and secondary teachers is very important," said the apex court bench of Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar and Justice HL Gokhale in a recent judgment.
Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Nijjar said: "They have to be treated honourably and given appropriate pay and chances of promotion. It is certainly not expected of the state government to drag them to the court in litigation for years together."
The court said: "We do record our strong displeasure for the manner in which the state of Bihar kept on changing its stand from time to time. This is not expected from the state government."
The court said this while allowing two petitions by the Bihar State Government Secondary School Teachers Association which had challenged the high court orders of Oct 31, 2007, and May 21, 2010, quashing the July 7, 2006, order of the governor merging the teachers of the Subordinate Education Service (Teaching Branch) male and female cadre into Bihar Education Service Class II.
The merger was challenged by the Bihar Education Service Association, giving rise to a third round of litigation.
The apex court also took exception to the manner in which the Bihar High court allowed the reopening of the issue, which had been decided twice by the apex court, in earlier rounds of litigation.
"The manner in which the learned Single Judge proceeded with... to reopen the entire controversy, and also the Division Bench... in approving that approach is also far from satisfactory," the apex court observed.
Holding that the single judge of the high court had no business to re-open the entire controversy with Bihar Education Service Association challenging the merger, the apex court said: "The law of finality of decisions which is enshrined in the principle of res judicata (matter already judged) or principles analogous thereto, does not permit any such re-examination, and the learned Judge clearly failed to recognise the same."
"If the orders passed by this court were not clear to the state government or any party, it could have certainly approached this Court for clarification thereof. But it could not have set up a contrary plea in a collateral proceeding," the judgment said, adding: "We do not expect such an approach from the state government, and least from the High Court."
The Bihar government had set up a three-member committee in March 1976 to recommend as to how the stagnation in government services could be removed and promotional opportunities enlarged.
The committee in its report said that its recommendations should come into effect from January 1977.
Accepting the recommendations of the committee, the Bihar government issued a notification on April 11, 1977, and it was gazetted April 27, 1977.
The judgment extracted two paragraphs of the government decision July 3, 2007, which said that in the year 1977 the total number of created/sanctioned posts of male and female teachers were 2,465, against which total working strength was 1,336. This decreased to 880 by the years 2006, and of this, if 301 units belonging to Jharkhand are deducted, the total comes to only 579.
The number of teachers in schools were counted to assess the financial burden on the state exchequer on account of the implementation of the decision.