Four years after the process was initiated, HRD ministry has readied the National Textbook Council Bill to monitor school textbooks and whether they adhere to the core principles of the Constitution.
The bill has been circulated to the state governments. Sources say while the BJP-ruled states have raised several objections to the bill, the Congress-ruled states have approved the proposed legislation.
The proposed council would be independent of any organization involved in the preparation of textbooks and also be fully autonomous with fair representation from civil society and academia. The council would be a forum for citizens to register complaints regarding textbooks that would be followed by an investigation.
The bill also proposes to set up a National Textbook Regulatory Authority that would be chaired either by a retired Supreme Court or a high court judge. After a complaint is received or the council takes suo motu cognizance of news reports, the authority would review the textbook and inquire into the truth of the matter under dispute. The review would take into account whether the textbooks follow three Constitutional principles of egalitarianism, democracy and secularism. It would also check if all textbooks fulfill four criteria: not teach anything in conflict with the Constitution, not propagate prejudice to the sovereignty and integrity of the country, not incite contempt for law and not defame any community or group or incite hatred.
The authority would have the power to take remedial action. It would be assisted by two subject experts whose opinion would be taken by the authority before taking a decision.
The bill comes after a committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education had in 2004 recommended a regulatory mechanism for textbooks and parallel textbooks taught in schools outside the government system. The committee headed by political scientists Zoya Hasan and Gopal Guru had studied the textbooks and curriculums used in government schools not using the syllabus of the Central Board of Secondary Education and schools outside the government system especially those run by religious and social organizations. The committee had said the procedure for approving curricular materials should include a serious appraisal by academic experts.