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‘Education Dept is misusing its power’

It all started when the Industrial Tribunal passed an order directing the Department of Education to release salary for the past 10 years of Maya Devi, amounting to Rs 4.8 lakh (approx). She works as a part-time sweeper in a school under Delhi government.

Maya Devi was underpaid. She was made to work full day, that too with a meagre salary. She was not given a raise, nor a bonus. Thus, she filed a case in the Labour Court and fought for 10 years and has now won the case. The court directed that she should be given the pending salary.

I was approached by her to file a case against the aided school she was working for and the Education Department. So, we (me and two other lawyers) were engaged by the party to get the order of the Industrial Tribunal executed. Thereafter we filed an RTI to get our queries addressed and managed to secure one personal hearing before the authority. The name of the officer, who was to conduct the first hearing, was Additional Director of Education Shamim Akhtar.

On the day of first hearing, the officer did not turn up. After making us wait for more than about two hours, the office staff informed us that he will not be available. We were then asked to record our attendance on a plain paper and not in a file noting sheet where they maintain the records. We were offended by all this and wrote a short complaint below our signatures noting the incident and how we were made to wait for two hours.

But the office staff said we were not allowed to write any comments. The file noting was torn in front of us. They said they want only signatures on a blank paper. All these were taking place in the waiting area, outside the office of the said education officer.

We objected to this, saying that they have no right to destroy public records. Thereafter we called the police and complained against the official. After the arrival of the police, there was a change in the official’s behaviour. He accepted his mistake in front of everyone and gave us an apology in writing, stating that such behaviour will not be repeated in future and requested us not to file a complaint. Looking at his apologetic behaviour, we let him go and settled the matter.

When we appeared on the next day of hearing at 3 pm, at the time given by them, again we were made to wait for about two hours. The hearing started at around 5 pm. When we were called for the matter the staff objected to the appearance of the advocate. I was in my lawyer’s uniform, but still she said, ‘Sir, you are not allowed to go inside.’ She stated that she was given directions by an officer.

No staffer has the right to deny representation by an advocate to present our case before a judicial or quasi-judicial body. The officer, Vinita Shankar, Regional Director of Education, said that she has all the right and power to deny representation to an advocate, and she will not hesitate to record the same in the speaking order. She also said that ‘You have all the liberty to challenge it anywhere.’

But after the receipt of the said detailed order, we were surprised to see that there was no mention regarding the restriction made by her on the representation of an advocate. There was not even a single line regarding this. Also, the full order was not supplied to us. We asked for the full order but after a week they supplied us the same one.

The government officials of the Education Department are misusing the discretion conferred upon them by the government. They are harassing the public at large for no good reason. They are making us wait, giving us hearing one after the other – but all in vain. They do not want to face any question nor are they willing to be held accountable.

Narvinder Thakran is an advocate.

— As told to Shruti Das