Sunday, August 20, 2017

University teacher wins Supreme Court battle over dismissal

The Union Supreme Court has overturned the Ministry of Education’s decision to dismiss a university teacher, in a decision some argue could be a landmark ruling for other civil servants.

Daw Kyin Htay at her home in Yangon. (Kaung Htet/The Myanmar Times)Daw Kyin Htay at her home in Yangon. (Kaung Htet/The Myanmar Times)

The ministry dismissed Daw Kyin Htay, a professor and head of the Department of Economics at Yangon Distance University on March 29, 2013, under section 41 of the Civil Servants Law for allegedly having poor relations with colleagues and students. No department inquiry into the allegations was conducted.

In December, her lawyer, U Mg Mg Soe, asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus – an order to correct a defect of justice – on the grounds that the decision was in violation of section 375 of the 2008 Constitution, which guarantees a person “shall have the right of defence in accord with the law”.

On January 23, the Supreme Court agreed to accept the case. The court heard arguments on April 28, with the Attorney General’s Office acting on behalf of the Ministry of Education. On June 9 the court overturned the ministry’s decision.

“I’m really happy for the sake of my own dignity and that of my family because some people thought badly about me after I was dismissed,” Daw Kyin Htay said.

U Mg Mg Soe told The Myanmar Times that the ministry had contested the case vigorously but its allegations against Daw Kyin Htay were “nonsense”.

“During the hearing, the Ministry of Education submitted groundless allegations against Daw Kyin Htay to the court. For example, they said she never did research or participated in educational seminars,” he said.

“We showed that she attended regional seminars. In one case she was the only one chosen from Myanmar to present a research paper.”

U Mg Mg Soe said the decision was particularly significant because the dismissal letter was signed by then-Minister for Education U Mya Aye with the approval of the president.

He said he could find no evidence that a decision made by a minister had been overturned by the Supreme Court. “In another case that I found, a decision by the head of a city development committee was nullified. [Daw Kyin Htay’s] case is the highest case to date,” he said.

Daw Kyin Htay was equally scathing of the Ministry of Education’s “inappropriate accusations”.

In an effort to justify its decision to dismiss her, Daw Kyin Htay said the ministry had produced complaints about her submitted by some of her former colleagues. However, these were dated June 27, 2013 – almost three months after she had been forced to quit.

Legal affairs writer Thaw Nay Zaw said the Supreme Court’s decision would give civil servants greater job security, as it would serve as a precedent for any future cases.

“It shows that the government can’t dismiss civil servants without conducting an inquiry or without some kind of oversight,” he said.

Prior to going before the Supreme Court, Daw Kyin Htay’s case was raised in the Pyithu Hluttaw in 2013 by representative U Thein Nyunt. During the seventh session, Minister for Education U Mya Aye, who has since passed away, confirmed to the parliament that Daw Kyin Htay had been forced to resign with full pension entitlements, and that no department inquiry had been conducted prior to her dismissal.

The Ministry of Education could not be reached for comment last week.