Mohonpur, Aug. 4: The looming uncertainty about the future of 400 students of Garden High School-IISER appears to be over since the Calcutta High Court has directed the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) authorities to issue provisional affiliation to the school within August 14 so that it can register students who have cleared Class VIII.
The order in the real term paves way for the school, set up by the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research – Kolkata (IISER-K) at its campus in Mohonpur, to introduce classes beyond VIII under the CBSE pattern. The school authority was debarred to register students beyond class eight so far in absence of the requisite affiliation.
Both the IISER-K authorities and the Guardians of the students have welcomed the court order terming it as great ‘relief’ for them. “Such an order was the most coveted one. We hope that the CBSE would comply with the directives of the court and issue the necessary affiliation within the stipulated period ending the uncertainty of 400 students”, said Goutam Majumder, a physician and father of a student.
A CBSE official, however, refused to comment on the order without examining its content in detail.
The interim order was delivered by Justice Soumen Sen following an online hearing held on July 30 on an emergency basis due to Covid situation on an application submitted by Satikanta Guha Foundation (SGF) that runs the school, challenging a decision of CBSE rejecting its appeal for affiliation on June 2019, apparently on the basis of observations made by the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD).
The SG Foundation was eventually chosen by the IISER-K authorities among others to set up the school. The IISER-K also handed over the authority for running and managing the school to the Foundation.
However, since 2019 the CBSE on a number of occasions rejected the SG Foundation’s appeal for affiliation of Garden High School-IISER. The CBSE had first rejected the appeal purportedly on the ground that the school has no boundary wall and the “No Objection Certificate” (NoC) issued by the IISER-K was not vetted by the MHRD, which prompted the SG Foundation to file a petition before the Calcutta High Court in August 2019.
An official of the SG Foundation in Calcutta said, “In August 2019, the High Court ruled out CBSE’s objection and directed it to issue affiliation. The issue of boundary comes up irrelevant as the school itself located inside a well-fenced campus of IISER-K. Nevertheless, the CBSE further rejected our appeal citing a new point – the absence of a lease deed in spite of the existence of a formal agreement between us and IISER-K signed on November 19, 2014”.
Insiders at IISER-K said that a draft lease deed sent to MHRD for consideration and approval. However, the MHRD mysteriously failed to finalize the lease deed which apparently was instrumental to turn down the appeal for the affiliation.
The failure of MHRD to finalize the lease deed has been termed by the High Court as “unfortunate” as it eventually led the students to suffer. The court has also observed the apparent absence of a consensus between MHRD and CBSE. Justice Sen in his order categorically stated “…It seems that the two authorities of the same Government are at loggerheads”.
“The existing agreement between IISER-K and SG Foundation clearly permits to allow the petitioner to set up such school with the infrastructural facilities” – Calcutta High Court
The repeated denial of CBSE to issue affiliation also angered the guardians who staged sit-in demonstration at the IISER-K campus demanding an end of ‘uncertainty’ of their children.
“This eventually prompted us to file a fresh petition against the CBSE before the Calcutta High Court, which thankfully issued an order on July 30 asking the CBSE to issue provisional affiliation within two weeks”, said T.K.Gopalan, CEO of SG Foundation.
While delivering the order the High Court ruled out the issue of absence of ‘lease deed’ as raised by CBSE, stating that the existing agreement between IISER-K and SGF “clearly permits to allow the petitioner to set up such school with the infrastructural facilities”.
The court also observed that the existing agreement was never ‘challenged’ and ‘both the parties acted on the basis of it’.
IISER-K’s School committee chairman Professor Narayan Banerjee said, “I welcome the court order. It is a big relief for the IISER-K community. The court issued a clear order that the school was set up only because IISER-K desired to have it. So we have moral obligations to our children who read in this school and we cannot ignore it”.