An Indian official who worked at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London has won an employment tribunal claim that he was unlawfully forced out of his job and is entitled to thousands of pounds in damages. Ram Venuprasad had brought the case against Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland for unfairly disciplining him over leaks of information to the media, which he denied responsibility for.
The 45-year-old’s lawyers had argued that the former deputy head of office at the Secretariat had been “marked out” by Scotland after he raised concerns over her decision to spend 50,000 pounds on a garden party shortly after she had taken office in 2016. The specially-convened employment tribunal concluded that Venuprasad was unlawfully forced out of his job and the disciplinary processes used against the former senior civil servant were “seriously flawed”, The Times reported.
The ruling from the tribunal, held at the Secretariat headquarters in Marlborough House in London, came soon after the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) concluded on April 20. “Despite receiving the judgment last week, I did not want to speak publicly until the conclusion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London,” Venuprasad told the newspaper.
The Indian citizen who has lived in Britain for 20 years hopes to find work at another international organisation but had been told by head-hunters that the case would hinder his chances. Venuprasad’s legal team told the tribunal that when media reports highlighted Scotland’s alleged “extravagant and overzealous spending”, the civil servant was blamed for the leak and suffered a campaign of “intimidation and hostility”, which he said was “designed to damage his reputation and damage him psychologically”.
The civil servant, who joined the Secretariat in 2001, said the tipping point came when Scotland, 62, organised a major meeting for staff and caused a stir by telling the meeting that no one outside of the organisation had ever heard of her predecessor, Kamalesh Sharma, the former Indian high commissioner to the UK. “That really did not go down well,” Venuprasad recalls, claiming that Scotland – a former UK Attorney-General – appeared to suggest that she was a big name who was going to raise the profile of the Secretariat.
“I spoke to her directly and frankly about her comments. I told her that I thought her criticisms were very unfair as (Sharma) was not there to defend himself. I saw it as a question of common courtesy. And she did not like that,” he claims. The employment tribunal, chaired by David Goddard, concluded that Venuprasad’s suspension was a “breach of the secretariat’s obligations” under its employment contract and is now set to take submissions regarding the amount of compensation to be awarded.
The panel also criticised Scotland for not giving evidence. Failing to do so “overlooks the Secretariat’s responsibility to assist the tribunal to reach an informed decision, and the real risk of adverse inferences being drawn,” it noted. Disciplinary action was brought against Venuprasad in July 2016, when it was alleged that he was “disaffected” and had leaked information to the media, which he continues to deny.
“We are reviewing the tribunal’s judgment and will consider our next steps,” a Commonwealth Secretariat spokesperson said.