M A I N   N E W S

Minority Status
St John’s cries foul, seeks Patil’s help
Tribune News Service

Ram Niwas
Ram Niwas

Chandigarh, June 8
The dispute between city-based St John’s High School and the UT administration is getting murkier by the day, with the former approaching the UT administrator against Home Secretary Ram Niwas and District Education Officer Chanchal Singh for allegedly interfering in the institution’s functioning. The UT administration had yesterday challenged the school’s minority status before the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI).

In a representation to UT administrator Shivraj Patil, the school authorities contended that St John’s High School was a minority educational institution covered under Article 30 of the Constitution and belonged to the Christian community. The institution, they held, had consequential right to establish and administer the school without any unreasonable restrictions or conditions being imposed on it.

According to allegations levelled in the representation, “Despite minority norms, blatant steps are being taken by the Home Secretary-cum-Secretary Education, Chandigarh Administration, to interfere in the day-to-day working and administration of the school… No stone has been left unturned to malign the reputation of this great institution, which has just celebrated its glorious 50th year of existence.”

The school cited the recent case involving its arts teacher Michaelangelo Francis as a key example of “harassment”.

Notably, a written complaint had been received from a PCS officer, TK Goyal, and his wife, Meeta Goyal, the parents of two class VIII students, against the arts teacher. Though the school immediately marked an enquiry into the matter, it was shocked to find that the Press carried news-items wherein it was stated that the school had been served a notice by the Chandigarh Administration in connection with the entire episode.

However, no such notice had been received by the school till then but was seemingly released to the Press by the Education Secretary, Chandigarh Administration, even before being served upon the school, they maintained.

This, they claimed, could not have happened without the “Education Secretary, the Director Public Instruction (School) and the District Education Officer acting malafide and with a premeditated mind to tarnish the reputation of the school”.

Allegations levelled BY THE SCHOOL

n The Home Secretary ordered a probe by the SDM into the incident of alleged corporal punishment by a schoolteacher within less than 24 hours without giving the school an opportunity of conducting its own enquiry. However, in a similar incident at a government school, no SDM enquiry was ordered nor any “threats” of criminal proceedings were issued.

n An enquiry was ordered on a complaint made by a parent against the arts teacher even though the school was in the process of conducting its own probe. Again, the school was already seized of the issue.

n Each and every notice issued to the school is released to the Press even before the same is received by the school.

n The action of the District Education Officer in holding the arts teacher guilty of something not even remotely alleged in the complaint before him.

n The inaction of the District Education Officer regarding the actual complaints made against arts teacher Michaelangelo Francis. The same teacher has been subsequently cleared of all charges against him in an independent enquiry conducted by Chief Justice S.S. Sodhi (Retd).

n The action of the District Education Officer in holding the Principal guilty when there was not even a single allegation made against her by T.K. Goyal in his complaint. This clearly indicates an attempt to “malign” the Principal and drag her into the case.

n The action of the District Education Officer in appearing as a witness in a criminal case filed by one Arvind Thakur stinks of his bias against the school. The District Education Officer was not summoned by the Court but deposed in the case on the asking of the complainant therein.

n The action of the District Education Officer who being a member of the Managing Committee of the school has not attended a single meeting of the managing committee for reasons best known to him and further his action of enquiring into the matter though he is himself a member of the managing committee.

n The release of the report of the District Education Officer to the Press via fax from the office of the Home Secretary even before the same was communicated to the school.

n Non-diarying of letters sent by the school, thus deliberately creating a false impression that the School was not responding to notices from the Education Department.

n Refusal to acknowledge even diaried letters and using this as a pretext to conduct an enquiry on the ground that the school had not responded. Notable is the fact that the same diaried letter has been acknowledged as having been received in the administration’s response before the NCMEI.

n The filing of criminal complaints by Rohtas Sangwan at the behest of the Home Secretary-cum-Education Secretary only in order to harass the school and the Principal.





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