The chief secretary of Punjab has three days to resolve issue of salaries of a school in Sarghoda – else the Supreme Court will swing into action.
Chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said on Friday that in case of the chief secretary’s failure, the court will protect fundamental rights of the teachers as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Resuming the hearing of a case pertaining to salaries of teachers of the Divisional Public School (DPS) Sargodha, a three-judge bench of the apex court directed Punjab’s chief secretary to convene a meeting of the board of governors of the schools to disburse pending salaries. The bench also asked the chief secretary to reach a settlement through which teachers should be given salary since 1994, the year the school started functioning.
The chief justice said that there was an acute lack of interest in the education sector – contrary to it being the primary obligation of authorities. After issuing directions to the chief secretary to submit a response in the matter in three days, the bench adjourned the hearing till August 15.
During the course of hearing, the chief secretary told the bench that, being an autonomous body, the DPS Sargodha was not a public school. He further said that 43 such schools were running in the province with their own resources and they get no financial support from the provincial exchequer. “No funds were allocated by the Punjab government to pay salaries to DPS teachers,” he said.
However, he contended that board of governors of the DPS was competent to approve any increase in the teachers’ salaries.
The chief secretary further said that if the government was to allocate finances to one divisional school then it would also have to allocate funds for similar 43 schools and over 100 NGO schools. Rejecting this reply, the chief justice observed, sarcastically: “Shut the schools if you can’t raise salaries – If you are helpless, the provincial chief executive would be questioned over the issue.”
He remarked that DPS teachers were being paid only Rs5,000 per month and were exploited for 18 years which he termed was against the law of equity.
On Thursday, while expressing dissatisfaction over written statements by commissioner Sargodha and deputy advocate general Punjab, the chief justice had directed both the officials to appear before the court on Friday.
“Paying mere three to four thousands rupees to a teacher is injustice. This is exploitation of teachers and violation of Article 3 of the Constitution. So the government should raise their pays or close down schools,” the chief justice said in his remarks during the hearing.
“Are those who teach in English medium schools angels?” the chief justice questioned and added the chief secretary Punjab must read Article 3 and Article 25 of the Constitution.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2012.