The Supreme Court while dealing with a batch of appeals along with three writ petitions has held that the decision of the NCTE (National Council for Teacher Education) to include B.Ed. as a qualification for teachers in a primary school is arbitrary and unreasonable.

The Court was deciding a case wherein the judgment passed by the Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court was under challenge with regard to the dispute relating to the notification issued by NCTE.

The two-Judge Bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia observed, “… we are unable to comprehend as to what was the pressing need to include B.Ed. candidates, who are admittedly not fully trained to take up Primary Classes! Consequently, the decision of the NCTE to include B.Ed. as a qualification for teachers in a primary school seems arbitrary, unreasonable and in fact has no nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the Act i.e. Right to Education Act, which is to give to children not only free and compulsory but also ‘quality’ education.”

The Bench said that NCTE was not justified in including B.Ed. as a qualification for appointment to the post of primary school teacher (Level-1), a qualification it had so far consciously kept out of the eligibility requirement.

“The Rajasthan High Court by way of the Impugned Judgement had rightly struck down the notification dated 28.06.2018”, further said the Bench.

Senior Advocate Paramjit Singh Patwalia appeared for the petitioners, Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and Manish Singhvi appeared for the Diploma holders and State respectively while Additional Solicitor Generals Aishwarya Bhati and Vikramjeet Banerjee appeared for the Centre.

Factual Background -

A notification in the year 2018 by the NCTE was made in exercise of its powers under Section 23(1) of the Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE). Such a notification made B.Ed. degree holders eligible for appointment to the post of primary school teachers (classes I to V). Despite the notification, when the Board of Secondary Education, State of Rajasthan, issued an advertisement for Rajasthan Teacher Eligibility Test (RTET Level-1), it excluded B.Ed. degree holders from the list of eligible candidates. This action of the Rajasthan Government was challenged before the High Court.

The petitioner had a B.Ed. degree, and as per the aforesaid notification he was eligible, like many other similar candidates. Consequently, he filed his petition before the High Court and apart from the batch of petitioners, there was another set of petitioners, with their own grievance who were the diploma holder candidates in Elementary Education (D.El.Ed.), which was the only teaching qualification required for teachers at primary level, and who are aggrieved by the inclusion of B.Ed. qualified candidates. The High Court had quashed the notification, holding B.Ed. candidates to be unqualified for the posts of primary school teachers.

Hence, the question of law to be answered by the Supreme Court was whether NCTE was right in including B.Ed. qualification as an equivalent and essential qualification for appointment to the post of primary school teacher. The Court in this regard noted, “The inherent pedagogical weakness in B.Ed. courses (for primary classes), is well recognised, and it is for this reason that in the impugned notification itself it is provided that B.Ed. trained teachers will have to undergo a six months training in elementary classes, within the first two years of their appointment. … In this background, the inclusion of B.Ed. candidates for primary level classes is beyond our comprehension.”

The Court further noted that the need for ‘quality’ and meaningful primary education was emphasized by the legislature as well as by the academic authority all throughout.

“In primary education, any compromise on ‘quality’ of education would mean going against the very mandate of Article 21A and the Act. The value of Primary education can never be overstated”, also said the Court.

The Court observed that the NCTE is bound to follow the directions of the Central Government and the direction in this case was to include B.Ed. as a qualification for teachers in primary school, which has been done by NCTE through the notification.

“We have absolutely no doubt in our mind that policy decisions of the Government should normally not be interfered with, by a constitutional Court in exercise of its powers of judicial review. At the same time if the policy decision itself is contrary to the law and is arbitrary and irrational, powers of judicial review must be exercised”, held the Court.

The Court added that a policy decision which is totally arbitrary; contrary to the law, or a decision which has been taken without proper application of mind, or in total disregard of relevant factors is liable to be interfered with, as that also is the mandate of law and the Constitution.

“The decision whether to include or exclude B.Ed. as a qualification for teachers in primary school is an academic decision, which has to be taken after proper study by the academic body i.e. NCTE and should be better left to this expert body. … But as we have seen the decision to include B.Ed. as a qualification is not an independent decision of NCTE, but it was the decision of the Central Government and NCTE was simply directed to carry it out for that being a direction under Section 29 of NCTE Act, a direction NCTE followed”, further said the Court.

The Court held that it was not a policy decision as the same was against the letter and spirit of the Fundamental Right enshrined in the Constitution under Article 21A.

“The only logic given by the Central Government to include B.Ed. as a qualification is that it is a ‘higher qualification’. This we have already seen is not correct. Under these circumstances, we have no hesitation to say that the notification has rightly been quashed and the decision of the Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court has to be upheld”, concluded the Court.

Accordingly, the Apex Court dismissed the appeals, upheld the judgment of the High Court, quashed the notification, and disposed of the writ petitions.

Cause Title- Devesh Sharma v. Union of India and Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2023 INSC 704)

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