The Karnataka High Court vide its interim order dated 02.08.2012 has in a significant move ordered the Government of Karnataka to review its list of posts identified for persons with disabilities. Section 32 of the Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995mandates that state governments should identify posts in government establishments that can be reserved for persons with a disability and further requires state governments to review the list prepared at least every three years to take into consideration the advancement in technology that may enable disabled persons to perform jobs that was previously not possible by them.
The State of Karnataka however has not reviewed its list of jobs in Group ‘C’ and ‘D’ since 2002, i.e., in the last 10 years while its list of jobs in Groups ‘A’ and ‘B’ has not been reviewed since 2009. This puts the employment rights of the disabled and the equal participation goal in serious detriment as they stay ineligible for applying to various new posts that arise and several other posts although they may be fully qualified and capable. Further, the lists prepared by the State Government is extremely restricted and limited in number. For instance, while the Central Government has identified more than 325 posts in more than 100 departments for the blind and persons with low vision, the state of Karnataka in comparison has only identified 36 posts under 31 state departments for the blind and persons with low vision.
The National Federation for the Blind (NFB) filed a writ petition in the nature of a Public Interest Litigation in the Karnataka High Court praying for the court to direct the Government to expeditiously review the list of jobs identified for persons with disabilities. Jayna Kothari assisted by Varsha Iyengar and Shruti Ramakrishnan of CLPR appeared in the matter on behalf of the NFB.
The Karnataka Government complying with the interim order, issued fresh notifications adopting the Central Government List of jobs identified for the Blind in both ‘A’ and ‘B’ groups, as well as ‘C’ and ‘D’ groups. This move comes as relief for disabled persons as the Central Government list is much more comprehensive and provides for a high number of employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.
The Government also withdrew the problematic requirement it had imposed on persons with disabilities of having to obtain medical fitness certificate to prove their capability to perform their job duties. The court opined that this additional condition was unfair and amounted to indirectly retracting the benefits provided to persons with disabilities under the legislation. The court also directed that these identified jobs and reservation will now also extend to Public Sector Undertakings, Universities, Aided Institutions, and autonomous/statutory bodies coming under the purview of Article 12 of the Constitution as ‘state’. Further, the state government shall also provide for aids and appliances that have been prescribed for persons with disabilities to perform their job effectively. For the first time, such a positive requirement of providing aids and appliances at workplaces will put into place the rights of reasonable accommodation, which is a core component of ensuring equality for persons with disabilities.
A copy of the final judgment of the Karnataka High Court dated 16.11.2012 is available here.