CLPR represented Manjunatha, a person with 100% visual impairment, in a petition before the Karnataka High Court which required the Court to determine the education rights of persons with disabilities. Manjunatha sought to apply for the BEd Course in Karnataka; however, he was denied permission to sit for the written examinations during the admission process by reason of his disability exceeding 75%. The Announcement issued by the Department of Public Instructions permitted applications from persons with disability but restricted it to such applicants who had a disability exceeding 40% but below 75%. In its judgment dated 29 September 2011, a Single Bench of Karnataka High Court presided by Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar allowed the petition by holding that such a provision in the announcement ran counter to the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
Jayna Kothari on behalf of Manjunatha, argued that that the definition of “Person with Disability” under Section 2(t) of the PWD Act, 1995 carried no upper limit for disability and therefore a person whose disability is more than 40% cannot be denied benefits under the Act. Moreover, persons with 100% visual impairment are perfectly capable of pursuing degree courses in order to complete their education and the announcement is arbitrary in terms of its prescription of such upper limits of disability for eligibility. In response to the Government’s contention that visually impaired candidates would not be able to perform teaching jobs, Kothari argued that the question of ability to pursue education is different from that of the ability to perform duties under an employment. Moreover, persons who are visually impaired have successfully completed Phd and other post-graduate degrees and have even been successful teachers.
The Government argued that the upper limit in the announcement was based on a similar provision in Karnataka Selection of Candidates for Admission to Teachers Certificate Higher Course (TCH) and Bachelor of Education Course (B.Ed) Rules 1999 and therefore such a Notification could not be challenged. The Bench however, rejected this contention by holding that the Rules were primarily enacted for regulating capitation fees and not for “regulating the reservation policy of the education system relating to physically impaired candidates”. The Court further held that since the Rules run contrary to the PWD Act, it would not be proper for the State Government to rely on the Rules to deny admission to candidates having more than 75% disability. Therefore, the Court ruled in favour of Manjunatha and held that he is entitled to take up CET for admission to B.Ed Course and further declared that he shall not be denied admission on the basis of his disability exceeding 75%.