Lawyer: Civil servants criticising govt can be charged with misconduct

lawyer-civilservant

PETALING JAYA: Civil servants who show disloyalty to the king, government and the public service can be subjected to disciplinary proceedings, a lawyer said.

G Subramaniam Nair, who has appeared for public sector workers, said this was provided for under the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) 2002 Regulations.

“The disciplinary authorities can act if government servants conduct themselves in such a manner as to bring disrepute to the public service,” he told FMT.

The above provision could be invoked if civil servants openly criticised the government at any platform.

He said this in response to the education ministry sending show cause letters to five teachers for allegedly running down the government at a talk held by a political party.

Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid had said their participation in politics was not a problem but that it was unacceptable if they used opposition meetings to attack the leadership and the government.

He said the action to be taken would depend on how much cooperation they gave to the ministry in the case.

The minister said only a small number of the 435,000 teachers nationwide were actively involved in opposition parties and that the ministry was monitoring the situation.

He said it was not a problem if a civil servant made constructive comments on social media.

Subramaniam said giving speeches in the presence of the public was tantamount to publication.

He said he had appeared for a senior civil servant who issued a statement that his immediate superior had abused government assets for private use.

“His service was terminated and the High Court held the decision by the disciplinary authority as lawful,” he said.

The officer did not appeal further as he was entitled to partial gratuity and pension as a result of the termination from service.

Subramaniam said those found guilty of misconduct could be warned, fined, reduced in rank, have their salary cut, or dismissed from service.

“Those dismissed are not entitled to pension and gratuity,” he said.

Subramaniam said aggrieved civil servants must file an action in the court for judicial review within 90 days from the date the decision was communicated to them by the authority.

“Articles 5 and 135 (2) of the Federal Constitution give protection as public sector employees cannot be denied of their livelihood and must be given the right to be heard,” he said.

Subramaniam said civil servants hauled up before a disciplinary board had the right to request for documents implicating them in the misconduct.

“They can also ask for extension of time to reply after receiving the documents,” he said.

He advised civil servants to request for an oral hearing if they had witnesses to assist the authority in the decision making process.