Sassoon lab technician sacked

PUNE: The Right to Information Act, 2005 is facing one of its most critical tests in Pune where bureaucrats at the Sassoon hospital have terminated the services of an employee within four weeks of a landmark RTI ruling.

After admitting under the RTI Act that lab technician Vaishali Kalekar was kept on a temporary post for 13 years due to administrative lapses, the Sassoon administration on June 18 swiftly terminated her services.

Ironically, the same administration had informed regional information commissioner Vijay V. Kuvalekar during a hearing on May 8 that a proposal to regularise Kalekar’s service had been forwarded to the government. Also, that her annual increment and pending dues till June 2007 would be paid as per the Fifth Pay Commission recommendations.

Following these assurances, Kuvalekar’s May 22 ruling had not only paved the way for Kalekar’s regularisation of service but had also exposed the bureaucratic harassment suffered by her for the last 13 years.

However, rather than honouring these commitments, the Sassoon hospital administration terminated her services following a development in the Bombay high court on June 18.

As Kalekar’s lawyer, N.V. Vetlekar, was late in making his appearance in a writ petition on her Sassoon case, a high court bench comprising justices J.F. Ribero and R.M. Sawant dismissed her case “by default”.

Pointing out that the case was dismissed on a technical point and not on merit, Kalekar’s appeal for restoration of her case in the Bombay high court is now slated for hearing on Friday.

Although qualified with first class degrees in BSc (zoology) and BSc-applied BM Tech (pathology, radiology and medical instrumentation), the Sassoon administration in its record erroneously maintained for over a decade that Kalekar did not have the minimum qualifications for the post.

Sassoon hospital’s appellate authority under RTI, Dr Arun V. Jamkar (dean, B.J. Medical College), acknowledged that Kalekar’s petition was dismissed “as the opposite side’s lawyer was not there”.

Asked whether Kalekar’s termination order was contradictory to the admission of bureaucratic lapses made by the Sassoon hospital before the RTI information commissioner, Dr Jamkar said, “We admitted to RTI that information was not given in proper time and we have acknowledged that mistake.”

He justified her termination by stating: “She was all the time under some stay in the high court. Since she lost in the court, we have terminated her service. Her entry was not regular and as per Supreme Court decision, if proper recruitment is not followed, she has no right on the post.”

Kalekar’s advocate Vetlekar said that besides seeking restoration of her case in the high court, Kalekar has filed a civil application that “the order of termination be withdrawn and Sassoon hospital be directed to take her back on employment.”

Kalekar joined the Sassoon hospital through the University of Pune employment exchange on May 16, 1994 and has been battling for regularisation of service since then.

Sassoon lab technician sacked-Pune-Cities-The Times of India

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