Read Judgment: Rajneesh Kumar Pandey & Ors vs. Union of India & Ors

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, November 2, 2021: The Supreme Court has directed the Central Government to notify the norms and standards of pupil-teacher ratio for special schools and also notify separate norms for special teachers who alone can impart education and training to Child with Special Needs (CwSN) in the general schools. 

A Larger Bench of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice C.T. Ravikumar therefore directed the government to create commensurate permanent posts as per the just ratio to be specified by the competent authority for the rehabilitation of professionals/special teachers who can cater to the needs of CwSN. 

The observation came to be passed in reference to petitions filed in representative capacity, to espouse the cause of teachers having B.Ed. (Special) and D.Ed. (Special) degree/diploma courses and fully trained to cater to the requirements of CwSN also known as Divyang, including to impart them education and make them independent. 

The main grievance was about the illegality being committed by the concerned State and its Authorities in employing the petitioners in recognized schools on contract basis without any certainty of tenure. 

According to the petitioners, there is a need to appoint 73,888 special teachers on regular basis to teach 3,69,443 CwSN in the State of Uttar Pradesh and equally large number in the State of Punjab so as to fulfill the required pupil-teacher ratio i.e., 5:1. 

After considering the submissions, the Top Court found that as regards the appointment of special educators/special teachers/rehabilitation professionals on itinerant basis, the same may not appear to be in strict conformity with Section 25(2) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009

However, such teachers are not to be posted in a school as such, but are to render their services in a cluster of schools, which is permissible in the context of the special teachers under the Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992 and the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999, added the Court. 

The Larger Bench explained that the mandate is that CwSN must be educated and trained only by special teachers being rehabilitation professionals, duly recognized and registered by the Council under the 1992 Act. 

As a matter of fact, the 2009 Act recognizes the special treatment needed for the child with disability/CwSN by insertion of Section 2(ee) and Section 3(3) in the Act, which not only recognize the right of CwSN to get free, quality and compulsory education in neighbourhood school till the completion of their elementary education, but also the right to opt for home-based education if the child is inflicted with multiple disabilities or severe disability, as the case may be, added the Bench. 

The Top Court said that as of today, there is a dearth of rehabilitation professionals or special teachers recognized and registered by the Council, who alone can impart education and training to handicap person/CwSN, and this disparity will have to be addressed by the National Council of Teachers Education for (NCTE) coming under a different department i.e., DSEL. 

It is for the NCTE to evolve a holistic mechanism in collaboration with the Council to enhance the number of special teachers to overcome the deficit, added the Court. 

The Top Court also noted that as per the available data with the Unified District Information System for Education, there are 22.5 lakh CwSN in the country, where only 4.33 lakh general teachers have been trained to teach CwSN in addition to teaching general children and only 28,535 special teachers are available for children with special needs/CwSN. 

Accordingly, the Apex Court directed the Government to initiate the appointment process to fill vacancies for the posts so created for rehabilitation professionals/special teachers for being appointed on regular basis. 

The Court also said that until sufficient number of special teachers becomes available for general schools and special schools, the services of special trained teachers can be availed as itinerant teachers as per the SSS within the school block (cluster schools) to optimize the resource persons and as a stopgap arrangement. 

The Apex Court also made it clear that the nature of observations made and directions issued, is not limited to the States of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, but will operate across the country. 

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