The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed all school teachers, who were part of the Joint Action Committee of Tamil Nadu Teachers Organisations-Government Employees Organisations (JACTTO-GEO) and had been striking work since Tuesday, to return to work forthwith in the interest of the students.
A Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and P. Rajamanickam passed the interim order on a public interest litigation petition filed by R. Gokul, a Class XI student of a government higher secondary school at Arumbakkam here claiming undue hardship caused to the students due to strike by teachers.
The judges made it clear that all the school teachers on strike must report for duty at their respective schools by Friday. They, however, refrained from passing any such order with respect to other government employees on strike, because the petitioner’s prime grievance was only with respect to school teachers.
During the course of arguments, the petitioner’s counsel Naveen Kumar Murthi contended that the government school teachers could not take the students to ransom, especially when the public examinations were nearing. He contended that strike was not the only way to press their demands.
‘No other option’
On the other hand, advocate N.G.R. Prasad, representing JACTTO-GEO, told the court that the employees had no other option but to go on strike since the government had not moved an inch despite them having suspended their strike call for a considerable number of days to pave way for relief works carried out pursuant to Cyclone Gaja.
Advocate General Vijay Narayan brought it to the notice of the court that 55.85% of teachers working in government schools, 13.44% working in government-aided schools and 13% of staff in the office of the Director of School Education, totally amounting to 39.7% did not report for work on Tuesday.
Pointing out that the figures were excluding elementary schools in the State, he said: “It is a matter of great shame for all of us that teachers have resorted to strike when students have to be prepared for exams. The teachers and students have a guru-shishya relationship. They are expected to take care of the students as their own children.”
The government was capable of handling the strike and it intended to take strong action against all those who were on strike under the conduct rules, he added. He also presented a synopsis of the demands made by the teachers as well as the action that had been taken by the government so far to address them.
After hearing all of them, the judges adjourned the main case to February 18 for further hearing.