Monday, November 21, 2016

Hyderabad HC Permits Blind Advocate To Take Judicial Service Exam pending his Writ Petition

Dear Colleagues,


This time, Mr. Arepalli Naga Babu, a visually-challenged IDIA scholar from Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, has yet again strengthened the well-known belief that the only disability in life is lack of will and fortitude. Acting on his petition, the Hyderabad High Court has directed the authorities to accept his application and permit him to write the Judicial Service Exam to be held on 27th of November 2016, which he was denied earlier. 

The court also directed that he be allowed to take the examination in a separate room with the assistance of a scribe and be granted 20 minutes extra for every hour to compensate for the disability. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice A. Shankar Narayana affirmed that he cannot be denied participation in the selection process under the open category merely on account of his handicap (blindness) and stated that ‘there does not appear to be any prohibition in the Andhra Pradesh State Judicial Service Rules 2007 prohibiting visually-challenged candidates from participating in the selection process for appointment to the posts in the AP State Judicial Service’. 

Naga Babu, a law graduate from National Law University, Odisha, and a practising advocate of the high court, said the exam notification issued for the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Judicial Services Exam confined the benefit of reservation only to the orthopedically handicapped and excluded the visually impaired persons. He stated that after he applied for the exam, he was informed that his application would be rejected as he was not entitled to write the exam and is neither eligible for reservation as per the rules.

Read more at: http://www.livelaw.in/hyderabad-hc-permits-visually-challenged-idia-scholar-naga-babu-take-judicial-service-exam/

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Right to Dignity - a Consititutional Right of the Female Disabled Employee will Prevail over Employer's Right to Take Work, says Kerala HC [Judgement Included]

Dear Colleagues,

Here is a classic case where the Indian Railways has been wasting the exchequer's money in unnecessary legal battle against a female disabled employee who was seeking protection under section 47 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of  Rights & Full Participation) Act 1995 since the year 2002.

Brief history
 
While serving in the Railways, in the year 1998, Ms. Fancy Babu suffered transverse myelopathy (inflammation of spinal cord) at D4 level, which eventually resulted in complete paralysis confining her to bed. In 2002, she proposed to retire voluntarily and the Indian Railways accepted it. In 2009, having come to know of the beneficial provisions of benefit of Section 47 of the Persons with Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act, 1995, the employee approached the Central Administrative Tribunal, Ernakulam Branch seeking reinstatement and extension of benefits under the Act in OA/49/2009. The Tribunal, allowed the original application, setting aside the order or retirement and directed the employee’s reinstatement with effect from 15.02.2002. But Railways went against it before the High Court in  WP(C) No. 15871 of 2010 [click here to read the judgement dt 25 Aug 2014], wherein the said order was confirmed by the High Court by dismissing the appeal preferred by the Railways. 

Facts leading to instant case
 
However, in the year 2015, Ms. Fancy Babu had to again approach CAT  & file MA No. 180 of 2015 under Rule 24 of the CAT (Procedure) Rules 1987 complaining that the Tribunal’s order, as has been confirmed by this Court, has not been implemented by the Indian Railways.  Ms. Babu cited Kunal Singh v. Union of India (2003) 4 SCC 524 and Bhagwan Dass and another v. Punjab State Electricity Board (2008) 1 SCC 579 on protections available to employees under Section 47 of the Act.

The Tribunal, treating it as a special case, held that the employee need not report to office to receive her salary and it directed the employer to explore the possibility of ‘voluntarily’ retiring the employee with all service benefits. 

The Indian Railways again preferred an appeal  OP (CAT).No. 182 of 2016 titled Union of India and Ors Vs. Ms. Fancy Babu, before the Kerala High Court against this order of the Tribunal.  The contention put forth by the Indian Railways was that that since it is in trust of public money; it would be against the public interest to let a person draw salary without her discharging any function—without even attending the office. On the part of employee, it was urged that, where an employee has been totally incapacitated and has been rendered immobile, it is inequitable and unconscionable to compel the employee to attend office, much less discharge functions. 

Dismissing the challenge against the CAT order, the division bench comprising Justices PR Ramachandra Menon and Dama Seshadri Naidu, observed: “Given the modesty of women, the employer, still, expects a crippled woman employee to visit the work place, and, if necessary, discharge the functions to be assigned to her—all this with a urinary catheter permanently fixed and also with bowel incontinence: her modesty exposed and privacy invaded.” 

Strongly worded judgement authored by Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu discusses judicial recognition of human dignity in various countries. The bench also observed that employer’s insistence that she should physically mark her attendance daily in office violates her privacy. “The doctrine of dignity takes into its fold ‘privacy’, too, for it is a facet of a woman’s dignity,” the court held. “The employer seems to have understood that keeping an employee on the rolls, as if she had been in service, must mean that she should perform the ritual of attending office. We are afraid it is misplaced, if not perverse,” the bench said. 

 Dismissing the appeal and upholding the CAT order, the bench remarked: “Here is a conflict, as it seems, between the employee’s constitutional right—right to dignity and privacy—and the employer’s right—right to compel an employee to discharge the allotted functions. Need we say, it is the constitutional right that prevails? Nevertheless, we hasten to add, it may be a constitutional canon but needs the facts to justify it. Here, the facts, we think, justify this conclusion.”

Click here to read the judgement  dated 03 Oct 2016 in OP (CAT).No. 182 of 2016 titled Union of India and Ors Vs. Ms. Fancy Babu passed by the Kerala High Court.



5% Marks Concession to Reserved Categories in TET is Creating Equal Level-Playing Field - Supreme Court [Judgement Included]

Dear Colleagues,

Hon'ble Supreme Court has reiterated that the preferential treatment or concessions granted to SC/ST, backward classes, persons with disabilities and de-notified communities is within the concept of equality and is in furtherance of the  constitutional obligation of the State to the under-privileged and to create an equal level-playing field.

In the instant case the 5% marks concessions granted by the Tamil Nadu State to the reserved categories in State Teachers Eligibility Tests conducted under the NCTE guidelines was under challenge. The division bench comprising Justice Siva Kirti Singh and Justice R Banumati was considering a batch of appeals on conflicting judgments from Principal and Madurai Bench of Madras High Court concerning appointment of secondary grade teachers and B.T. assistants in Tamil Nadu as per the guidelines prescribed by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE).

Hon'ble SC Bench observed that “The idea behind laying down NCTE guidelines for conducting TET was to bring about uniformity and certainty in the standards and quality of education being imparted to the students across the nation. However, at the same time the framers of the guidelines took note of the huge socioeconomic disparity existing in the nation and accordingly, by virtue of Clause No. 9 enabled the respective state governments/authorities to provide relaxation to the candidates belonging to socially backward classes.” 

Hon'ble Bench expressed that the Constitution   of   India   has   made   adequate   enabling   provisions empowering   the   State   to   promote   reservation/concessions.   Special provisions are made for advancement of the socially and economically backward classes.  These provisions will bring out the contents of equality of opportunity guaranteed under Articles 14, 15 (1), 16 (1) of the Constitution of India by creating equal level-playing field.  

Hon'ble Court made a reference to M. Nagaraj and Others vs. Union of India and Others  (2006) 8 SCC 212, wherein the Constitution Bench held as follows:-
“47. Equality of opportunity has two different and distinct concepts.  There is a conceptual distinction between a non-discrimination principle and affirmative   action   under   which   the   State   is   obliged   to   provide   a level-playing field to the oppressed classes.   Affirmative action in the above sense seeks to move beyond the concept of non-discrimination towards equalizing results with respect to various groups.   Both the conceptions constitute “equality of opportunity”.”
The Bench also made a reference to State of Madhya Pradesh and Anr. Vs. Kumari Nivedita Jain and Others (1981) 4 SCC 296 wherein it was eloquently stated that the grant of relaxation is for the upliftment of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and other backward communities.  

The bench also indicated that in a similar case wherein Rajasthan High Court upheld the challenge to relaxation to reserved categories,  the Hon'ble SC had reversed the Rajasthan High Court judgement  in the matter titled  Vikas Sankhala and Ors. v. Vikas Kumar Agarwal and Ors. Etc. (2016) 10 SCALE 163.

The bench held that such a provision is in line with the principles enshrined in the Constitution and state government cannot be faulted for discharging its constitutional obligation of upliftment of socially and economically backward communities by providing 5% relaxation to candidates belonging to scheduled caste, scheduled tribes, backward classes, most backward classes, de-notified communities and persons with disability (PWD). 

The bench also rejected the contention that the government has changed the rules of selection. “It is not the case where a basic eligibility criterion has been altered in the midst of the selection process.” “By granting relaxation of 5% marks in TET for reserved categories only, the eligibility criterion is neither altered nor is any prejudice caused to the appellants.”

The Hon'ble bench finally held that Madras High Court principal bench rightly rejected the challenge to G.O.(Ms.) No.25 dated 06.02.2014 and G.O.(Ms.) No. 71 dated 30.05.2014, holding that as per the NCTE guidelines, the state government has the power to grant relaxation on marks obtained in TET to candidates belonging to reserved category and the same is affirmed.

To read the judgement click here: