|W.P. (C) No. 9260 of 2020
|Date of Filing
|The National Federation of the Blind
|The Karnataka Public Service Commission, State Government of Karnataka Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms, State Government of Karnataka Department of Women & Child Welfare, The Commissioner for Disability Bangalore
The Petitioner, which is a Federation formed to serve visually impaired and low vision people and works extensively towards securing equal opportunity in the field of education, training, and employment for such persons, filed the present Writ Petition No. W.P. (c) No. 9260 of 2020 in public interest on behalf of all visually impaired persons in the State of Karnataka to ensure their right to reasonable accommodation in the public examination announced by the Karnataka Public Service Commission on 31.01.2020 for the appointment of Gazetted Probationer Officer Group A and B. The Petition seeks enforcement of Fundamental Rights, under Articles 14, 16, 21 of the Constitution, and the proper implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.
The Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC) issued a Notification dated 31.01.2020 calling for applications from candidates for a preliminary examination to be conducted for the appointment of 106 Gazetted Probationers for both Group A & B posts. Accordingly, over 800 visually impaired persons submitted their application for the same. Thereafter, KPSC issued a Press Release dated 08.08.2020 directing all blind and low vision applicants to undergo a medical test prior to the examination. On 11.08.2020, KPSC through a press release announced that the Preliminary Examination would be held on 24.08.2020. It is the contention of the Petitioner that the rules and procedures followed by KPSC for conducting written examination for persons with benchmark disability has been discriminatory in nature and are largely disadvantageous to the visually impaired candidates.
In this regard, the Petition focuses on three main contentions:
KPSC, on directing all visually impaired candidates to undergo a medical test, released a list of all visually impaired candidates along with the name of the hospital and the appointment schedule for the medical test. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and with such short notice, the need to travel across towns and villages for the medical test became unsafe and inconvenient for the visually impaired candidates. Moreover, such a test was in addition to the disability certificate produced by the candidates according to the Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016 thereby making this direction of KPSC arbitrary and illegal.
Provision of Scribe
According to the order of KPSC dated 30.10.2007, the examinees have to arrange their own scribe in the Preliminary Examinations and are forced to opt the scribe provided by KPSC in the Mains. However, the Petitioner contended that such a scheme is against the Unified guidelines for written examinations for Persons with Benchmark Disabilities, issued by the Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment on 29.08.2018, which provides that the candidate shall have the discretion of opting their own scribe or requesting the Examination body for the same. Further, the Union guidelines provide that a panel of scribes must be established by all examination authorities. However, no such panel has been constituted by KPSC for preliminary examinations.
According to Unified guidelines for written examinations for Persons with Benchmark Disabilities, issued by the Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment on 29.08.2018, the compensatory time for candidates with benchmark disabilities has to be 20 minutes per hour. However, according to the KPSC rules dated 30.10.2007 only 10 minutes additional time is provided for such candidates.
The petition further relied on the notification of Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment dated 8.11.2019 directing all State Departments of Social Welfare to issue guidelines for conducting written examinations for Persons with Benchmark Disabilities in line with the Central Guidelines dated 29.09.2018.
Therefore, the Petitioner prayed for the effective implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 within Karnataka Public Service Examinations by:
- Mandating a minimum of 20 minutes compensatory time for Persons with Benchmark Disabilities.
- Setting up of a Panel of Scribes for Preliminary Examinations and arranging a meeting of the scribe and the applicant two days prior to the examination.
- Waiver of additional medical examination for visually impaired candidates considered for the Preliminary Examination as per notification dated 31.01.2020.
The Petitioner also prayed for an interim relief to stay the conduct of the examination till the panel of scribes is formed by KPSC.
The Karnataka High Court on 20.08.2020 admitted the Writ Petition and issued notice to the Respondents. Upon submissions, the Hon’ble High Court denied the stay on the conduct of the examination, advised KPSC to consider granting 20 minutes compensatory time and issue regarding the infringement of rights visually impaired candidates as per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 has been kept open.
In relation to the exam schedule for 24.08.2020, KPSC issued an Order dated 21.08.2020 permitting 20 minutes per hour compensatory time for candidates with Benchmark Disabilities, waiving the pre-requirement of medical test for visually impaired candidates and asking those candidates unable to find a scribe to contact KPSC through SMS. On 11.2.2021, another Government order was passed replacing the corrigendum. As the Government orders were later substituted, the writ petition was finally disposed.
This post was authored by Almas Shaikh, Research Associate and Deepika Hungenahally, an Intern.