Supreme Court to Karnataka Govt.: Don’t keep visually impaired persons out of primary school teacher jobs

The Supreme Court last Thursday upheld the decision of the Karnataka High Court, directing the Karnataka State Government to provide reservation to visually impaired persons in the posts of primary school teachers and to implement the same through a special recruitment drive. The Court dismissed the appeal of the Karnataka State Government which contended that blind and low vision persons cannot do the job of primary school teachers and therefore ought not to enjoy reservation in these posts.

Rajan Mani, Advocate with Disability Law Initiative, argued before the Court. The SC decision implies that several hundred blind and low vision persons will be required to be recruited by the state to fulfill the shortfall of reserved vacancies for such persons since 2005.

A blind persons’ NGO, Akhila Karnataka Andha S.K. Sangha represented by Advocate Jayna Kothari, had successfully petitioned the Karnataka High Court in the matter. Before the High Court the state had argued that the posts of primary school teachers were not suitable for visually impaired persons. Again, in its July 2016 affidavit before the Supreme Court, the state said that “students studying in primary schools cannot be taught by the teachers with blindness and low vision.” The state further said that of the 44,000 Government primary schools, there were many with only one or two teachers and no support staff, and if reservation was provided to visually impaired persons, it would be difficult for such schools to function.

The Supreme Court, however, did not find merit in the submissions of Karnataka State. A bench headed by the Chief Justice of India noted during oral arguments that under the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, at least 3% of all vacancies in Government jobs were to be reserved for disabled persons and of these, at least 1%  were to be reserved for persons with impaired vision. Further, pursuant to the said Act, both Central and Karnataka State Governments had identified the posts of primary school teachers to be suitable for blind and low vision persons. Therefore, the state could not shy away from it’s obligation to hire such persons in the said posts. The bench opined that if visually impaired persons were be placed in schools where other teachers and support staff were available, it could not adversely affect the functioning of such schools, particularly with the modern technology based aids and appliances available to blind and low vision persons. It was the responsibility of the State to see that the benevolent purpose of the Disabilities Act was achieved. Accordingly, the Court did not find any merit in the state government appeal and dismissed the same.

Case Details:

Civil Appeal No. 3910 of 2009,  Selection Authority and Deputy Director  Vs. Akhila Karnataka S.K. Andha Sangha

Against the final order and judgment of the Karnataka High Court in PIL Writ Petition No. 16396 of 2005 (copy attached:  WP16396-06-29-06-2007)