Thursday, Oct 31, 2013, | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

The Bombay high court has given relief to Sanjay Salve, an atheist school master from Nashik, directing the Savitribai Phule Secondary School to release money due to him from 2008 when it was stopped because Salve had not folded his hands during a prayer meeting.

A division bench of justices Abhay Oka and MR Bhatkar directed the school to release the dues before January 31, 2014. The bench noted that it was not mandatory for Salve, who was with the school from 1996, to fold his hands during the meeting.

Salve moved the high court and cited article 28 (3) of the Indian Constitution which gives everyone in educational institutes that receive state funds the right to abstain from religious instructions.

At an earlier hearing, the court had made it clear that state-funded institutes cannot expect teachers to fold their hands.

The school had countered the claim, saying that prayers were part and parcel of value education.

“Can it be said that we can’t impart value education. We want everyone in our school to follow the curriculum and its discipline,” the school’s advocate said.

Salve was eligible for a higher pay grade from 2008, a year after the prayer-meeting incident, when headmaster Madhukar Bachchav asked Salve to explain himself. The issue remained unresolved in 2009 despite repeated complaints to the authorities. In 2010, the high court directed the Nashik education officer to act on Salve’s complaint. Despite multiple letters from education authorities over the next two years, and even a legal notice in 2012, the management did not relent. So, Salve moved court for strict compliance of the secondary school code.