Pietermaritzburg - A Pietermaritzburg dad who resorted to the high court in an attempt to have his son reinstated as the first team cricket captain at St Charles College was hit for a six on Wednesday when the judge ruled he had no legal right to meddle with the internal affairs of the school – and even if he did, he would not have found in the father’s favour.
The ruling by Judge Rashid Vahed, handed down on Wednesday, almost four months after the case was argued, would have no effect because Pavishkar Indrajith, 18, the son of local attorney Pranesh Indrajith, matriculated last year.
But it will serve as a cautionary tale to other parents considering litigating over similar issues, with Cricket South Africa agreeing the matter should never have reached the courts.
Niels Momberg, CSA youth manager, said he was “disappointed that a dad could go this far”.
“I would expect and hope in the future that these kinds of issues will be handled by the coaches, parents and schools, and resolved amicably. There are internal processes for this kind of thing.”
St Charles College principal Allen van Blerk issued a statement saying the judgment reinforced several critical pillars for independent education, including the right to pursue excellence and to preserve the educational nature of sport.
“It is always reassuring to find that sense prevails in the end and I am grateful for the excellent counsel we received and the tremendous moral support from friends within and outside South Africa.”
Pravishkar said he and his father were studying the judgment and would comment after a few days.
The dispute began early last year when Pavishkar was dropped from the team after being told the previous year, while he was in Grade 11, that he was to captain the first side.
Judge Vahed said Indrajith mounted a challenge which involved lengthy correspondence “inappropriately set out in turgid detail on his professional practice letterhead”.
In May, the present application was launched seeking the reinstatement of Pavishkar, pending the outcome of an internal inquiry at the school to “resolve the dispute”.
The school, in opposing the application, said the teenager had been dropped because he had lost form. The issue was one of “internal governance”, there was no alleged constitutional violation and the court had no power to intrude.
The matter was only finally argued in September, when even an immediate ruling would have had very little effect.
The judge took issue with the fact that Indrajith had been “less than frank” as to why it took so long to set the matter down, attempting to unfairly put the blame at the school’s door when, in fact, the school had ultimately forced the matter on to the roll to be argued.
He also took issue with Indrajith’s attempt to “blur the issue with racial overtones” with assertions that his son, an Indian, was dropped because the coaching team and majority of members of the team were white and that the panel which took the decision to drop him was not properly constituted.
“None of this was established or proved,” the judge said.
Generally courts would defer to the jurisdiction of a school over its internal affairs, policies and other matters and would only interfere if there had been a violation of a fundamental right.
In this case, no breach of rights had been alleged nor proved.
“While I am not disposed towards examining the decision to drop Pavishkar and whether or not it was a good one, if I were inclined to interrogate it, I am of the view that it was properly taken, following procedure.
“The facts revealed that (coach) Dave Karlsen believed there were good grounds. He consulted with principal (Allen van Blerk) and then followed procedure. The committee which ultimately took the decision met and the team sheet which reflected that decision was countersigned by all members of the committee.
“Interfering with that decision would be an intrusion into the private affairs of the school and would be educationally unsound,” he said, dismissing the application.
He ordered that Indrajith pay the school’s legal fees, including the cost of a senior advocate, but stopped short of awarding costs on a punitive scale in spite of Indrajith’s “unseemly attempt to turn the dispute into a race-based conflict”.
Andrew Dickason of ER Browne Incorporated, who represented St Charles College, said the school was pleased “this unfortunate matter” was over and the judgment had “vindicated our stance”.