x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Top official forced to retire unfairly, court rules

Federal Supreme Court upholds civil servant's right to know the reason for the action after lower courts decline to rule on "acts of sovereignty".

ABU DHABI // A senior government civil servant was forced to retire from his job without a valid and detailed reason and must be given a fresh hearing by a new panel, the federal Supreme Court has ruled.

The former assistant undersecretary of finance and administrative affairs at the Ministry of Health was sent to retirement in June 2008.

The following year he took legal action against the ministry over his forced retirement. During his career with the ministry, from 1992 until he was dismissed 16 years later, he had been an "exemplary" employee who was promoted to the senior level, he told the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of First Instance.

When the court rejected his argument, he took it first to the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeals and finally to the Federal Supreme Court.

The ex-official was sent to retirement by a federal decree issued by the President, after the ministry presented the necessary papers to the Council of Ministers.

According to the UAE Constitution, appointing or dismissing senior officials - other than the President and the judges of the Supreme Court - and accepting their resignations should be accompanied by decrees and in accordance with the country's laws.

Decrees should also be approved by the Council of Ministers.

Employees may be sent to retirement if they turn 60, suffer health issues, resign, are dismissed for disciplinary reasons or because of a decision by the court. Court documents did not mention the age of the civil servant.

He argued that the dismissal violated the country's laws because the decree was not presented before the Council after it was issued.

He said the papers presented were "not true" and had asked the courts to invalidate the decree and order the ministry to bring him back to his job and pay all his financial dues dating back to the day he was sent to retirement.

The lower courts ruled that decrees issued by the President were beyond the scrutiny of the judiciary because they were "acts of sovereignty", an argument rejected by the Supreme Court.

"They failed to clarify in their records the legal and constitutional basis for their statement about the sovereignty of federal decrees or lay out clear and specific criteria for acts of sovereignty practised by the Head of the Union," wrote Dr Abdul Wahab Abdool, president and chief justice of the Supreme Court, who presided on the case.

Dr Abdool referred to article 28 of the UAE Constitution: "Penalty is personal. An accused shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty in a legal and fair trial."

"A fair trial is a constitutional right for all residents of the Union," wrote Dr Abdool. "Laying out sufficient reasons for a court decision is a guarantor of a fair trial."

The Supreme Court ruled that the failure of the lower courts did not allow proper scrutiny of their decision. The ruling was issued on October 20 and released in court documents yesterday.