NEW DELHI: Muzibur Rahman worked for 15 years as chief laboratory technician in a hospital in Chhattisgarh. His impeccable service record now has a black mark — a chargesheet served on him by his employer South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL). The reason being that he dared to use Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, and dragged senior officials withholding information to Central Information Commission (CIC).
Rahman's struggle began in November 2005, when he was working in SECL's Nehru Shatabdi hospital in Ghevra area of Korba. SECL had promoted some persons in the same year. Rahman sought information under RTI Act about the norms followed for these promotions. When his application and first appeal did not get him the requisite replies, he approached CIC in March 2006.
Just then, he was transferred out of Ghevra to the remote Anooppur district in Madhya Pradesh. This transfer could have been treated as a routine affair but for the fact this was the first ever transfer for Rahman in his 15 years of service.
On March 27, 2006, CIC found the public information officer (PIO) guilty of delay in giving information and served a showcause notice on PIO and SECL's general manager (personnel and administration) S P Choubey asking them ‘‘as to why a penalty of Rs 25,000 should not be imposed".
Immediately after CIC held SECL guilty, on April 24, Rahman was served a chargesheet by SECL.
His crime: he had "created pressure through pressure groups" like CIC. In a letter written to ministry of coal, Choubey put it down in clear words: "...Further it is to state that the employee concerned instead of approaching the management/ departmental forum to redress his grievance, he directly knocked the door of the CM, the chief vigilance commissioner, the collector as well as the Central Information Commissioner, and created pressure through pressure groups. As a result, concerned area has been advised to issue him chargesheet."
This did not stop Rahman. He says: "I realised that they were indirectly telling me not to use RTI and push my case. From a 100-bed hospital I was transferred to a remote dispensary in MP." Rahman brought this chargesheet to CIC's notice. When CIC questioned SECL GM (P&A) Choubey, through videconferencing and written letters, he refused that he had used the word "pressure group" for CIC. When Rahman furnished the letter written to ministry of coal, CIC passed an order in which it found Choubey guilty.
The Commission has recommended disciplinary action against GM (P&A) in accordance with the service rules applicable to him.
In a letter to the ministry of coal, CIC's additional secretary and registrar said: "Taking note of the
above false information, the Commission has directed me to request you to ensure that the charges may also include providing false information to CIC. The Commission has requested the ministry to ensure that disciplinary action against Choubey is taken at the earliest."
Even after a year, the chargesheet is pending and no inquiry is being conducted. Rahman says: "I have now been transferred back to Korba area. But I am in a dispensary and not a hospital. I have no use there. My expertise is going waste."
I think the below incident is the reason why many hesitate to reach CIC/RTI, that too if the issue is with their employer.
Eventhough Mr.Rahman has displayed courage despite getting a charge sheet, he is a loser in his job perspective.
Is this the reward for a brave citizen?
What would you suggest is the best to do in such cases? Is there any strategy like - approaching one's management first and if that doesn't work, go through RTI?
In my opinion, the CIC should intervene to advise the coal ministry and SECL to withdraw the charges against Mr Rehman, to set right the injustice of a charge sheet served on him by SECL.
Victimisation is the favourite weapon of many managements, especially those in the public sector. I have some personal experiences as well. But one thing I have learnt from my mentors : "Unless you are prepared to suffer, you cannot fight successfully, because the world is filled with cowards who want the heroes to die for them."