Armed with the RTI, employee takes Steel Ministry to Court

Chandra Prakash Gandhi is fighting a lone battle against the Steel Ministry and one that concerns about 1000 public sector employees. One of his main weapons is the Right To Information (RTI) Act.

Bharat Refractories Limited, a Central public sector Undertaking under the Ministry of Steel had rolled back the retirement age of its employees from 60 to 58 years. The Ministry had approved the move in 2001.

Mr Gandhi, who was heading the Bhillai Plant of Bharat Refractories Ltd. at that time, was one of the employees affected directly by the decision. He retired at 58 as per the roll down. Sceptical of the decision of the Steel Ministry, Mr Gandhi filed RTI applications to find out about the powers of the Ministry in this regard.

The Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises noted in its reply that “the Steel Ministry at the time did not have the power to approve the rollback of age of the employees. It said that the powers lay only with the Cabinet.”

It enforced Mr Gandhi’s apprehensions. Armed with the noting of the Steel Ministry and the reply of the Ministry of Heavy Industries, Mr Gandhi has challenged the decision of the Steel Ministry at the Chhattisgarh High Court.

“I always doubted the motive of the decision to roll back the age of public sector employees”, says Mr Gandhi. He points out that there had been corrupt and dishonest activities in the company and he had issued a chargesheet against the miscreants. The manager too was involved. “It was due to this that the decision to reduce the age of retirement was passed as I too got covered under it, but, the ministry at that time was not authorised to pass the decision”, he says.

It was not Mr Gandhi alone who was affected by the decision to retire employees two years earlier. It brought an earlier retirement for about 1000 public sector employees. Mr Gandhi calls it “illegal retirement.” Mr Gandhi, who is 66 years now, still hopes that the law will take its course and the affected people will get their due.
Mr Gandhi is one of the nominees for the RTI Awards, 2009.