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School Supervisor at Ministry of Education Soren T Bijaram.

Derek Achong

A school supervisor has obtained an injunction blocking the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) from restarting the recruitment process for the position of Chief Education Officer.

High Court Judge Kevin Ramcharan granted the injunction to Soren Bijaram after granting him leave to pursue his substantive case against the commission over the handling of the situation.

According to court documents obtained by Guardian Media, Bijaram applied for the position after it was advertised via a memorandum in January last year.

Bijaram participated in the allegedly “rigorous” interview process in August last year, and was waiting the publication of the merit list for the position when the Director of Personnel Administration (DPA) indicated that the process had to be restarted.

The DPA indicated that the commission had received legal advice, which indicated that the Minister of Education and not the commission had the authority to set the minimum qualifications for the post. It was also stated that the criteria initially set by the commission, which Bijaram applied under, was insufficient.

In the lawsuit, Bijaram’s lawyers are contending that the commission misinterpreted the regulations on the issue as the minister only had the power to modify the minimum qualifications when necessary and expedient.

“The applicant contends that the long-standing arrangement whereby the TSC would consult the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) in developing the relevant job description and setting the minimum qualifications for appointment to offices in the teaching service was lawful and proper,” they said.

They also claimed that the power afforded to the minister under the Teaching Service Regulations is illegal as it trespasses on the commission’s remit under the Constitution.

“The TSC has in fact appointed other Chief Education Officers utilising this very procedure without complaint or rejection and it is patently unfair for it to suddenly shift the goal post after the interview process has been completed,” they said.

They also criticised the TSC for accepting the position.

“It amounts to an abdication of its constitutional duty and responsibility based on a serious misapprehension of the law,” they said.

As part of the preliminary hearing, Bijaram’s lawyers also successfully applied for an urgent and expedited hearing of the case based on its potential impact.

“It will also affect all offices in the entire teaching service as the commission will now have to revisit and terminate other promotion processes where it had assumed responsibility for setting the minimum qualifications for appointment to various offices in the teaching service,” they said.

Through the lawsuit, Bijaram is seeking a series of declarations in relation to the issue including one over him being treated unfairly contrary to the principles of natural justice.

A virtual case management conference in the case is scheduled to take place on May 10.

Bijaram is being represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Renuka Rambhajan, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Alvin Pariagsingh and Alana Rambaran.