Sanjeev Kumar, a resident of Khagaria in Bihar, was appointed as a primary teacher in the district in 2007. However, in 2013, he received a new appointment letter for the same position without being dismissed. In 2022, he received the third appointment letter for the same position, still without being fired.
In a classic case of a “botched” teacher appointment process, the state Department of Education had given letters of appointment to five teachers three times in the past 15 years without ever firing them.
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The five teachers, who received their third and final letter of appointment in February 2022, however, have been on strike outside the Khagaria Collectorate since March 2 because the government had refused to pay them the salary for 32 months.
Without consuming solid food, they only survive on milk and diet drinks, which has affected their health, resulting in hospitalizations.
Two of these teachers each owe a loan of Rs 5 lakh to the banks, while two others owe Rs 3 lakh each. Although the Ministry of Education said teachers were paid from their date of appointment, it had no justification for withholding their 32-month arrears. Calling it defiance of a 2018 Patna High Court order, the teachers may soon move the court.
Sanjeev said, “We were appointed panchayat teachers on May 9, 2007.”
But on August 13, 2012 (appeal authority), the Department of Education overruled the appointments of 11 teachers based on a “due process of appointment not followed.” At the same time, the appeals authority ordered new appointments. “But we did not receive any dismissal letter and continued to collect our salary as usual. We had moved the Patna HC in October 2012 challenging the appeal authority order and the HC suspended the decision of the appeals authority,” Sanjeev said.
Of the 11 teachers whose appointment was revoked, five – Sanjeev, Antash Praveen, Anuradha Rani, Pinki Kumari and Sushma Dayal – were reinstated and received a new (second) appointment letter on July 22, 2013, after the CH ratified the appeals authority’s decision in May 2013.
They continued to receive their salary until October 2017. But their salary was interrupted from November 2017 to June 2019 without the Department of Education citing a reason.
In January 2018, they again moved the court for the resumption of their salary. Before HC responded to the petitioners’ subpoena, the Education Department passed an order on June 1, 2019, taking back their salaries and also clearing arrears through June 2019.
However, they received another jolt when the appeals authority on July 30, 2019 passed an order stating that teachers appointed on the basis of the 2006 selection would no longer receive their salaries if the 2013 order of the HC was not respected. But the five teachers, freshly appointed under the HC’s order, argued that the appeals authority’s order should not have applied to them. Yet their wages had been withheld even as they continued to work.
But the teachers won major legal relief with the Patna HC giving its final order on August 1, 2019, on the teachers’ January 2018 plea.
In his order dated August 1, 2019, Judge Anil Kumar Upadhyay said, “In view of the petitioners’ grievances, which require factual investigation, the petition in writ is decided with a direction to the District Program Officer (Settlement), Khagaria , to investigate. in the legality and validity of the appointment of the petitioners and if it is found that the appointment of the petitioners is legal and valid and that they have worked regularly during the period April 2012-March 2013, he shall pass the appropriate order for payment of wages and ensure payment of wages as soon as possible, preferably within a maximum period of 60 days from the date of receipt/production of a copy of the order.
Following HC’s order, the Department of Education authorized dues. However, the department did not find the appointment of a teacher illegal.
However, the Department of Education, without citing any reason, again issued new (third) appointment letters to the five teachers on February 4, 2022. The department was adamant about not paying arrears for 32 months (from July 2019 to January 2022) for the teachers even if all continued to work without any interruption of service.
“Three of us worked as principals and other teachers would be paid after we approved it. If we were illegal teachers, in what capacity did we officiate and do administrative work in the schools in the past 32 months? We have also been deployed in electoral service,” Sanjeev said.
Khagaria District Magistrate Alok Ranjan Ghosh, however, told The Indian Express: “Salary or fee can be paid from the day of issuance of letter of appointment and not before.”
Khagaria district education officer Krishna Mohan Thakur said: “We have asked our senior officers for instructions and we will be taking a call about it soon. As of now, we have decided to disburse the salaries of the five teachers from their last date of appointment. He added that if the teachers moved the HC, the Education Department would follow their decision.