Friday, July 1, 2016

Supreme Court says Section 33 entitles reservation for employees with disabilities in promotion in Group A,B,C & D alike [Judgement Included]

Dear Colleagues,

Please refer to my earlier posts dated 02 March 15 and  10 Oct 14, on the subject. 

In a historic judgment in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 521/2008 titled Rajeev Kumar Gupta and Others Versus Union of India and Others, the Hon'ble Supreme Court on 30 Jun 2016 has set aside / quashed the two office memorandums No.36035/16/91-Estt. (SCT) dated 18.02.1997 and No.36035/3/2004-Estt. (RES) dated 29.12.2005 issued by the Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India, terming them as illegal and inconsistent with the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

In the instant case the petitioners, Rajeev Kumar Gupta and seven other persons with disabilities serving as engineers in Prasar Bharti made the grievance that the higher level posts in the engineering cadre were filled mostly by promotion. Although these posts were suitable for persons with disabilities, the Government was denying them 3% reservation in these posts, which amounted to defeating the intent and purpose of reservation provided for in the Persons with Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act, 1995. At the heart of the problem were the DoPT instructions dated 18.2.97 and 29.12.2005, which prohibited reservation in promotion for disabled persons in Group A and B posts. 

Petitioners had argued that a large number of Groups A and B were filled only through promotion and because of the impugned DoPT memorandums, the benefit of reservation under Section 33 of the 1995 Act was denied with respect to those posts. Petitioners therefore lost out on a significant amount of opportunities at the upper end of the organizational hierarchy.

The government opposed concession to the disabled, contending that they have no right to demand reservation in promotion to identified Group A and Group B posts. It also cited the nine-judge bench ruling by the apex court in the Indra Sawhney (Mandal reservation) case, to maintain reservation should be confined to recruitment at the initial level, and not at the stage of promotions.

It may be pertinent to mention that in the Indra Sawhney case while dealing with caste based reservation issue, the Bench had held "Reservation in promotion is constitutionally impermissible as, once the advantaged and disadvantaged are made equal and are brought in one class or group then any further benefit extended for promotion on the inequality existing prior to be brought in the group would be treating equals unequally. It would not be eradicating the effects of past discrimination but perpetuating it."

But the bench dismissed the government’s arguments, noting that once the posts for the disabled have been identified under Section 32 of the Act, the purpose behind such identification cannot be frustrated by prescribing a mode of recruitment which results in denial of statutory reservation.

“It would be a device to defraud persons with disabilities of the statutory benefit. Once a post is identified, it means that a person with disability is fully capable of discharging the functions associated with the identified post. Once found to be so capable, reservation under Section 33 to an extent of not less than 3 per cent must follow. Once the post is identified, it must be reserved for PWD irrespective of the mode of recruitment adopted by the State for filling up of the said post,” it held.

The bench further said that Indra Sawhney’s case shall not impose a bar on reservation for the disabled, since the principle laid down in this case is applicable only when the State seeks to give preferential treatment in the matter of employment to the backward class.

“The basis for providing reservation for persons with disabilities is physical disability and not any of the criteria forbidden under Article 16(1) such as caste, religion etc. The objective behind the 1995 Act is to integrate those living with disabilities into the society and to ensure their economic progress… persons with disabilities are not and cannot be equated with backward classes contemplated under Article 16(4),” it said. Article 16 of the Constitution empowers the state to prescribe preferential treatment to certain classes in matters of public employment.

The judgement is historic and a major milestone in the fight for restoring the rights of persons with disabilities in India. 

The argument in this case were concluded on 17.03.2016  and the bench had reserved the judgement.

The case, represents success in a hard fought battle waged by persons with disabilities for equal opportunity and representation in the higher echelons of Government. Hitherto, disabled persons were likely to stagnate at the lower levels of the organizational hierarchy, as their promotion to higher level posts was made difficult because of their physical disadvantage. 


Brief Background of related matters

It may be pertinent to mention that the Hon'ble Supreme Court  had on 08 Oct 2013 in the case titled Union of India vs. National Federation of the Blind delivered a land mark judgment directing the Govt, of India and State Governments to compute 3% reservation for persons with disabilities in all groups of posts against the total number of vacancies in the cadre strength. The Hon'ble Court also laid down that the computation had to be done in an identical manner in respect of all groups of posts. Subsequently, the Hon'ble Supreme Court vide its judgement dated 10 Dec 2013 in a case titled as MCD Vs. Manoj Kumar Gupta upheld a judgment of Hon'ble Delhi High court which declared that Section 33 of the Disabilities Act, provided for reservation in promotion for persons with disabilities in Groups A and B also.

But instead of implementing the judgement, the Govt. of India had been contesting the issue through various frivolous litigation which were nipped in the bud each time by the Hon'ble Court. 

Judgement Copy

(Hyperlinked text opens the judgement in a new windowJudgement dated 30 June 2016 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 521/2008 titled Rajeev Kumar Gupta and Others Versus Union of India and Others