In an embarrassment to the State government, the Meghalaya High Court has today set aside and quashed the notification issued by the government which debarred teachers of government aided colleges from holding office in any political organisation or local bodies, or to take part in any election activities.
It may be mentioned that the Education Department had issued a notification dated November 8, 2021 which barred employees including teachers, lecturers, professors etc from holding office in any political organisation or local bodies.
In a verdict passed today, the bench of Justice Hamarsan Singh Thangkhiew said that teachers of government aided colleges do not hold an office of profit, and cannot be debarred from contesting in elections or holding political office.
“For the aforesaid reasons, the impugned amendments as given in the impugned notification dated 23.03.2021, amending the Aided College Employees Rules, being the product of a flawed decision making process, are held to be unsustainable, and as such, the impugned notification is set aside and quashed,” the High Court said.
The verdict of the High Court came on a writ petition filed by a group of Assistant Professors of various government aided colleges. In their petition, the teachers challenged the legality of the amendment to the Aided College Employees Rules, 1960, which has been adapted from the Assam Aided College Employees Rules, 1960, whereby, they have been disallowed from holding office in any political organisation or local bodies, or to take part in any election activities.
In this backdrop therefore, and by applying the tests and circumstances aforementioned, the post or office, held by the petitioners cannot come within the definition of being an ‘Office of Profit’ for the following reasons.
While giving its ruling, the High Court stated that the power of appointment and removal of the Assistant Professors of government aided colleges vest in the respective governing bodies of the aided colleges, and the only function that the government exercises is in the approval of such appointment and removal. “There is no direct control of the government over the services of the petitioners,” the court said.
The High Court also said that the payment of salary comes in the form of aid to the college, and there is no direct remuneration from the government to the Assistant Professors.
“The governing body of these aided colleges, being governed by the Assam Aided College Employees Rules, 1960 (as amended), function autonomously in administering the colleges, and the role of the government is limited only to deciding appeals, preferred by a governing body against an order of the Director of Public Instruction or by an employee against an order of a Governing Body,” the court added.
Further, according to the High Court, the Assistant Professors do not discharge any governmental function, nor does the government exercise any control over their activities, or over the functions of the governing body.
“The degree of control, as is apparent from the Rules itself, vests the governing bodies with great autonomy in the administration of the colleges,” the court said.
The High Court also said that the participation in political activities by the Assistant Professors on being elected to public office, will not give rise to any conflict between the duties and the interest thereof, as they are not under direct government control, as regards, the post they are holding in aided colleges.