The Delhi high court in a landmark judgment has ordered the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government to grant age relaxation to candidates for appointment of special education teachers (SETs), in a bid to meet the growing demand for these trained professionals.
The ruling is also likely to help other state governments that are struggling to fill up these posts owing to lack of manpower.
“The power of age relaxation has been vested in the competent authority by the legislature, being mindful of the fact that situations may arise when, in the interest of ensuring availability of sufficient number of candidates, age relaxation may be necessary,” said the order signed on Wednesday by justices Rekha Palli and Vipin Sanghi.
“The said duty of the government to grant age relaxation is even more onerous when it comes to the posts of SET, keeping in view the fact that these teachers play a very important role in the development, growth and assimilation into society of differently-abled children.”
India is suffering from acute scarcity of a trained talent pool in the sector related to educating children with special needs.
Hector Ravinder Dutt, founder of the Association of Special Educators and Allied Professionals, told news website Youth Ki Awaaz, “According to the 2011 Census, India has over 2.70 crore people living with disability. For a population of this size, India needs at least 15 lakh special educators to address their needs in the true sense.”
In the same interview, he also underscored that there were only 1 lakh to 1.5 lakh rehabilitation professionals in India.
The need for special educators increased manifold after the Right to Education Act made it mandatory for government schools to appoint adequate number of special educators.
The legislation directs the government to promote the use of appropriate augmentative and alternative modes including means and formats of communication, Braille and sign language to supplement the use of one's own speech to fulfill the daily communication needs of people with speech, communication or language disabilities, enabling them to participate and contribute to their community and society. Because of this mandate, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) made it compulsory to appoint special educators in all schools affiliated to it.
Though the Delhi government has to follow this rule, more than 1,000 posts of SETs remain vacant for various reasons, lack of adequate manpower being one of them.
Advocate Ashok Agarwal, who argued the case in favour of petitioner Syed Mehedi, told Firstpost that the order would certainly help all governments in meeting the demand for special educators to some degree.
“The Delhi high court order shows that providing adequate age relaxation to the candidates for the posts of special education teachers could be one way to meet the demand. Many trained persons do not apply for such posts on account of being overaged,” he said.
Mehedi, a special educator, approached the court after his appeal for age relaxation was turned down twice by the Delhi government.
The upper age limit for the post of special educator in Delhi government schools is 30, while the petitioner was 36.
The judges pulled up the AAP government for not filling up the posts by granting age relief to candidates, saying, “The issue of age relaxation had to be considered by the respondents in a wholesome manner; with the right sensitivities, and, not with a narrow straitjacket perspective, as they have done in the present case. In fact, a perusal of both the rejection orders shows that the respondents have merely reproduced the past history of the post of SET and the orders passed by this court in the present petition, without applying their mind to the factors repeatedly highlighted by this court.”
The high court also ordered the Delhi government to provide opportunity to the candidates who did not apply for the post of special educator for being overaged.
“To be fair to those candidates, who may not have applied in response to the advertisement in question on account of being age barred, we direct that the respondents undertake a further process of recruitment to fill up the vacant posts of SET without any delay, and to incorporate the clause of grant of age relaxation to all candidates applying for the said posts to the extent required,” the order reads.
The advertisement to fill up vacant posts of special educators was published in the year 2013.
Updated Date: Jul 04, 2019 19:59:53 IST