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Madras High Court Upholds Teacher’s Right to Peaceful Protest, Deems Charge Memos Unsubstantiated

Last Updated on November 29, 2023 by News Desk

As guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution and an essential component of a democratic nation such as India, the Madras High Court has emphasised the right to peacefully defend without the use of arms. The court further pointed out that the freedom to protest is a component of free speech and the right to life that Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees.

The petitioners contended that the charge memo was issued without due process because they were Teachers Federation members and had protested against irregularities made by respondent authorities during the seniority list finalisation process. The case dealt with a number of pleas contesting charge memos issued by the District Educational Officer under Section 17(b) of the Tamil Nadu Civil Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1955. They also argued that the petitioners had neither demanded or collected illegal gratification nor had caused dereliction of duty, insubordination, or allegations involving moral turpitude.

The petitioners, acting on behalf of the respondent authorities, engaged in agitation by provoking other educators, disrupting classes with loud speakers, and creating issues with law and order on Trichy Highway by using derogatory and unparliamentary language against the Education Department officers. The court observed that the charge memos were issued without scrupulously following the guidelines, and no police intervention had taken place or any criminal complaint was filed against the petitioners for their illegal actions.

The court further noted that the petitioners’ fundamental right was to demonstrate peacefully against the department’s unlawful use of its authority. It declared that Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(b) of the Indian Constitution protect the petitioners’ right to demonstrate on behalf of the Teachers Federation against the respondents’ arbitrary use of their authority to suspend one of the organization’s members.

The teachers had been suspended by the department at first, but after widespread protests around the state, they were later reinstated, the court noted. After reaching its decision, the court determined that the accusations contained in the charge memo did not follow the state government’s guidelines and were not supported by logic.

Case Title: J Jayaraj and Ors. vs. Chief Educational Officer

Written by: Srijan Raj, @procrastinate_human

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