Justice continues to elude the disabled

Justice continues to elude the disabled

Hypocrisy: State govt counters the right to jobs of the physically challenged in courts

Justice continues to elude the disabled

“Disabled people do not need sympathy. All they require is justice that is denied to them… Providing reservation for persons with disability (including the visually-challenged) is a Constitutional duty. It forms the bounden duty of the government to provide reservation for the disabled as being done for Scheduled Castes and Tribes in backlog posts…” observed Justice A V Srinivasa Reddy, the chairman of a division bench of Karnataka Administrative Tribunal in July 2009.

However, given the number of the disabled people approaching courts, it seems neither judicial strictures nor a maze of legal framework has been of any use for this ‘specially-abled’ category. That the government itself has excluded disabled persons from the reservation umbrella has become a Himalayan obstacle in realising the otherwise legitimate entitlement. Legal battles for reservation have only added to the trauma of the physically challenged. Shuttling between courts, shelling out money for advocates, the anxiety over the decision and bracing up for further appeal, all the while coping with bodily infirmities only further accentuates their plight.

A case pertaining to appointment of high school teachers (grade-II) in 2006-07 provides a classic example. The Karnataka State Disabilities Commission had observed that failure to reserve five per cent seats for the physically-challenged amounted to a serious flaw in the recruitment process, and directed the Department of Public Instruction to initiate the process afresh. The Commissioner had directed that the process including the examination be stalled to ensure that the disabled were given their legitimate right. The department was told to take up a one-time special recruitment providing five per cent reservation for the physically-challenged. It was also asked to maintain records on the posts reserved for the disabled during every recruitment.

When the Government appealed in the High Court against the order, the court too ruled in favour of the disabled. The government has approached the Supreme Court and a final decision is awaited. Meanwhile, the disabled continue to be deprived of their right, as their five-year old struggle is yet to reach a logical conclusion.

Some change

However, there seems to be some change in the stance of the government in subsequent cases. That it has decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court in two similar cases involving Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC) has come as a solace. In the first case, physically-challenged had approached the High Court claiming they have not been given the mandatory five per cent reservation in the recruitment of first and second division assistants.

In another case, the rationale of excluding the disabled from the appointments to the posts of panchayat development officers was questioned. The High Court upheld the contention of the disabled, and directed the government to issue a corrigendum to the recruitment notification. It also said that the Disabilities Commissioner and the State government together should constitute a committee of experts, within two weeks, to arrive at a policy on providing reservation to physically-challenged. The committee should submit its report to the court within eight weeks. According to sources, the process has been set in motion. Another shot in the arm came in the form a directive to the KPSC in the matter of appointment of horticulture assistants. The Disabilities Commission, last week, asked the KPSC to stall further proceedings on the September 6, 2010 notification and issue a fresh one including five per cent quota for the disabled.

Trust deficit

The orders, however, have not brought any cheers for the disabled. Given their past experience, they can heave a sigh of relief only when they get an appointment order. For, they are not sure as to when the directives would be challenged in higher courts. The State government, in an affidavit filed to the HC in 2007 had said that it will come out with a plan to provide jobs to the disabled. According to the affidavit, the government had spent Rs 448 crore to provide jobs to about 3.50 lakh disabled.

In 2008, the High Court had framed charges against Syed Zamir Pasha, then secretary to Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms, T M Vijayabhaskar, then principal secretary to Education department, retired joint director of Primary Education T M Kumar and M Nagaraja, the chairman of Recruitment Authority for not complying with the legal provisions and court directives in providing quota for the physically challenged in recruitment of teachers. Years have gone by with these landmark judgments and time has failed to be great healer in this case. The disabled continue to knock the doors of courts seeking justice as ruling dispensations crow about ‘development’ and ‘inclusive progress.’

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