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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Teacher union leader suspended for posts ‘criticising’ PM, department in Chandigarh

Arvind Rana says he was given no hearing, claims his Facebook posts only raise students’ concerns

cities Updated: Feb 13, 2019 23:42 IST
Srishti Jaswal
Srishti Jaswal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh

Arvind Rana, president of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Teachers’ Welfare Association, was suspended with immediate effect by the UT education department on Wednesday for his social media posts “prejudicial to the interest of the government” and allegedly against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Rana is a trained graduate teacher (TGT) in social science and posted on contract at Government High School, Sarangpur. He even received a letter of appreciation from the department for 100% results of Class 10 students taught by him in 2018.

This is second such suspension within a month. On January 21, Swarn Singh Kamboj, president of the UT Cadre Educational Employees Union, was placed under suspension for issuing statements to media.

A public statement issued by the department reads: “Samagra Shiksha, Chandigarh, has suspended the contract of Arvind Rana with immediate effect. His contract has been suspended for indulging in activities which are prejudicial to the interest of the government and unbecoming of a contractual employee.”

On basis of vigilance report: Department

The statement further reads: “Vigilance department, Chandigarh Administration, has informed that Arvind Rana is posting comments/articles on social media like Facebook and print media through which he is indulging in unauthorised and adverse criticism of the policies and actions of the Government of India as well as Chandigarh Administration. He has also posted adverse comments on social media against senior constitutional functionaries of the government. He has thus misconducted himself by criticising the department’s internal matters and policies and thereby tried to tarnish the image of the education department before the general public.”

UT education secretary BL Sharma said: “He has indulged in activities that are prejudicial to the interest of the department in particular and government in general. Every government employee, whether regular or contractual, is bound by conduct rules, which he or she have to follow sincerely and honestly.”

Sharma said Rana violated the conduct rules “blatantly by posting comments not only against the department and government, but also against the Prime Minister.”

“Such acts are unbecoming of a contractual government employee and warrant appropriate disciplinary action. Further action, as deemed fit, shall be taken in due course,” he said.

‘Arbitrary and illegal step’

While Article 19 of the Indian Constitution says that all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression, Section 24(2) of the Right to Education (RTE) Act reads that “a teacher committing default in the performance of duties shall be liable to disciplinary action under service rules applicable to him or her, provided that before taking such disciplinary action reasonable opportunity of being heard shall be afforded to such teacher.”

However, Rana alleged no show-cause notice was issued to him to present his side.

“My service terms and conditions should be governed by the RTE Act,” he said. “No opportunity was given to me before taking any action. Moreover, there are no such guidelines or bylaws under the SSA terms of contract barring interaction with print media or posting of material on social media.”

Rana said in every Facebook post, he has raised concerns for the welfare of students and education.

“There is no element of criticism in my posts with respect to the Prime Minister and officials,” he said.

Meanwhile, HC Arora, a senior advocate in the Punjab and Haryana high court, said the suspension is not only “arbitrary and illegal”, but “draconian in nature”.

“A government employee can criticise his service conditions. In this case, Rana was criticising policies with respect to the service condition of teachers. In fact, there was no notice issued to him prior to this action,” he said. “The department should not be oversensitive.”

First Published: Feb 13, 2019 23:40 IST