Making a government employees officer on special duty ‘is detrimental to his or her reputation vis-à-vis society’ and ‘no authority, not even the government, has the right to degrade or malign a person and his family members in society,’ said the High Court in a full verdict on a writ petition challenging the system of making civil servants OSD.
The 21-page full verdict was posted on the Supreme Court’s website on Thursday, a short order was delivered earlier on January 7, 2020.
The High Court in the short order declared that appointing civil servants as officer on special duty longer than 150 days without assigning any duty was ‘illegal’.
The court said that all government officers, who are presently designated as ODS, shall ‘stand released forthwith’ and ‘shall revert to their previous place of posting’.
The court also ordered sending the copy of the verdict to the senior secretary of the Cabinet Division and to the secretary of the public administration, and the rector of Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre for their information and guidance.
A bench of Justice Zubayer Rahman Chowdhury and Justice Sashanka Shekhar Sarkar delivered the judgement after hearing a public interest litigation writ petition filed by a retired civil servant and columnist M Asafuddowlah in June 2012, challenging the legality of making civil servants OSDs for an indefinite period longer than 150 days, violating the circular issued by the government on October 3, 1991.
The court in the full verdict observed that the constitution prohibited the taking of any action, save and except in accordance with the law, which is detrimental to, amongst others, the ‘reputation of any person’. ‘It is undeniable that when a government officer is designated as an OSD,’ the court said and observed that ‘in reality, such officers face humiliation and degradation not only in the estimation of their colleagues and family members, but also before society at large.
‘Such conduct is undoubtedly arbitrary and malafide,’ the court added.
The court also said that when a person is made to remain as an OSD for an indefinite period ‘it has a negative impact and effect on the immediate family members and relatives’.
The court pointed out that two women officers, who were designated as OSD way back in 2001, have continued to remain so till date and a period of over 18 years has elapsed without any change to their positions.
‘Making an officer OSD for an indefinite period would certainly hinder the matrimonial prospect of the children, who are also citizens of this country,’ the court said, adding, ‘In our view, this is grossly unfair, unjust and an infraction of a person’s fundamental right, as guaranteed under Article 31 of the constitution.’
The writ petition was filed against the backdrop of making 591 officers of the ranks of secretaries, additional secretaries, joint secretaries, deputy secretaries, senior assistant secretaries and assistant secretaries OSDs from 2008 to May 29, 2012, petitioner’s lawyer Aneek R Haque told New Age.
He also said that the government paid these officers salaries by keeping them idle with no work.
Quoting a Janakantha report, Asafuddowlah submitted in the court that 978 officers were made OSDs during BNP-Jamaat rule.
Lawyer Aneek told New Age that he would request the Appellate Division on Sunday to set a date for hearing the government’s provisional application that sought permission to appeal against the High Court’s judgement.
He said that the Appellate Division after hearing the application on January 19, 2020 stayed the High Court’s judgement delivered on January 7 of that year.
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