New Delhi: In a rap for political parties, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled the government cannot effect policy changes for political considerations on mere change of guard as it would be in conflict with the rule of law.

Rejecting Jayalalithaa government's bid to amend the TN Uniform System of School Education Act, 2010, of the previous DMK dispensation for deferring its implementation, the Apex Court said once an Act has been upheld by a court, the government cannot adopt back-door methods to nullify the effect of a judicial decision.

"Unless it is found that the act done by the authority earlier in existence is either contrary to statutory provisions, is unreasonable or is against public interest, the state should not change its stand merely because the other political party has come to power.

"Political agenda of an individual or a political party should not be subversive of rule of law," a three-judge bench of justices J M Panchal, Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan said in a judgement.

The Apex Court passed the judgement while dismissing Tamil Nadu government's appeal challenging the Madras High Court's direction for implementing the Act and quashing the amendment brought in by the state.

The amendment sought to defer implementation of the original Act on the plea that text books printed as part of the curriculum were of substandard quality and intended to promote the interests of DMK. "The action becomes bad where the true object is to reach an end different from the one for which the power is entrusted, guided by an extraneous consideration, whether good or bad but irrelevant to the entrustment.

"When the custodian of power is influenced in exercise of its power by considerations outside those for promotion of which the power is vested, the action becomes bad for the reason that power has not been exercised bonafide for the end design, Justice Chauhan, writing the judgement, said.

The Apex Court, however, said if the government felt that text books contained material promoting the political or personal interests of the previous dispensation it could have been deleted by an executive order.

The bench regretted that instead it chose to put the career and future of over 1.2 crore students in jeopardy by deferring implementation of the Act.

"The state government should have acted bearing in mind that destiny of a nation rests with its youths. Personality of a child is developed at the time of basic education during his formative years of life. Their career should not be left in conditions with uncertainty to such a great extent.”

"The younger generation has to compete in global market. Education is not a consumer service nor the educational institution can be equated with shops. Therefore, there are statutory prohibitions for establishing and administering educational institutions without prior permission or approval by the authority concerned," the bench said.

Justice Chauhan, however, agreed that in the text books printed by the previous DMK government certain references were incorporated to promote the political interests of that party.

"Undoubtedly, there had been a few instances of portraying the personality by the leader of the political party earlier in power, i.e. personal glorification, self-publicity and promotion of his own cult and philosophy, which could build his political image and influence the young
students, particularly, in the books of primary classes", the bench said.

"Such objectionable material, if any, could be deleted, rather than putting the operation of the Act 2010 in abeyance for indefinite period,” the bench said.

The Apex Court said the government has to rise above the nexus of vested interests and nepotism and eschew window-dressing and principles of governance have to be tested on the touchstone of justice, equity, fair play.

"If a decision is not based on justice, equity and fair play and has taken into consideration other matters, though on the face of it, the decision may look legitimate but as a matter of fact, the reasons are not based on values but to achieve popular accolade, that decision cannot be allowed to operate," the bench said citing its earlier ruling in the Onkar La Bajaj Vs Union of India.

Political parties hail SC judgement

Various political parties on Tuesday hailed the Supreme Court judgement on the Uniform Syllabus System for all schools in Tamil Nadu with DMK chief M Karunanidhi saying the verdict has taught a "fitting lesson" to the three-month old Jayalalithaa government.

"The verdict by the Supreme Court is a fitting lesson to the adamant AIADMK government which ignored Samacheer Kalvi (Uniform System of School Education) only because it was introduced by the previous DMK regime," Karunanidhi said in a statement soon after the Apex Court pronounced its order.

CPI and CPI(M), which fought the assembly polls together with the AIADMK also welcomed the Supreme Court order and said Tamil Nadu should ensure its speedy implementation.

Lauding the Court order, PMK which strongly favoured implementation of the system said the effort should be for its early implementation for the welfare of students.

Hitting out at the AIADMK government, PMK founder S Ramadoss demanded that "those responsible for the wastage of 70 school working days and Rs 500 crore of taxpayer's money should own moral responsibility and resign." 

Welcoming the Supreme Court verdict, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) said it has made AIADMK realise that the government's earlier decision not to implement Uniform Syllabus System was against the rights of students.