Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don’t’ set precedence

The seven employees of the Education are being punished, according to reports. They are losing out in every way.

They have been convicted and as a result, they lost their jobs. They were also liable for imprisonment if they are not able to pay what was owed against them. Even if they are in a position to pay, they would still lose their jobs, once convicted.

And thirdly, they may stand to lose their benefits accruing to them from the years of service that they have rendered.

The seven employees of the education ministry were involved in a forgery scam known as the “Ghost Employee Case.” If a pun can be used then, one might say that the “ghost” returned with a vengeance to punish them three times.

The case had been making news for quite some time. They were reported to have misused government funds, shown as payment of TA/DA to various head teachers and community leaders, who attended the education workshops. According to findings, the workshops were not even organized.

The crime that these employees have committed is a foregone conclusion. For that commission of crime, they have been suspended, then handed over prison terms and then sacked without benefits for their involvement. The degree of their crime is not relevant at this point.

Humans have been accused of many unsavoury and cruel actions. The “ghosts” are unforgiving. But forgiveness is not the question here. The fact is that all legal action should be tempered with understanding and compassion.

How many times does one have to pay for the same crime? This is not to justify criminality on the part of the person committing it. Every one should be punished for the number of crimes committed.

Yes, there have been instances when a person has been penalized and punishments awarded for different crimes committed by him or her. It is justifiable as he/she has been convicted on each count.

Now, the matter has come up for deliberations in the National Assembly. Many members of Parliament supported the Opposition Leader that the employees have been treated too harshly. It is of little comfort to know that the education ministry was not responsible for sacking the employees and that the Royal Civil Service Commission has been requested to relax the penalty. In fact, the education even sounded slightly apologetic.

While still under suspension, the case was forwarded to the court which convicted them. And the BCS Rules 2006 says that convicted civil servants are liable for termination from service. It is not about conviction but the fact that they have been disproportionately penalized for the crime they committed.

According to BCSR, one penalty should be imposed on each case. Some MPs even pointed out that the penalties meted out could even tantamount to violation of human rights and asked the government for its intervention.

What actions the government will take on the matter is something one cannot comment on. It is the government’s prerogative. However, to say that the government is helpless because RCSC is an autonomous body and it cannot interfere in its decision is like putting all autonomous bodies on a high pedestal than they don’t necessarily deserve to be on. We may even end up quoting different rules to justify our means and ends, at this rate.

But, this much can be said that these employees are lucky to have their problems mentioned and deliberated upon in the highest legislative body in the kingdom. We hope this doesn’t set up precedence. Or else we might end up discussing internal management problems rather than taking up matters of national importance.

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