Disabled candidate not unfit to be an engineer, says Delhi High Court to Railways

In an impact judgment for disabled persons argued by the Disability Law Initiative, the Delhi High Court has negated the stand of the Railways that the disability of a candidate renders him unfit to hold the post of engineer in the services of the Government of India. The High Court found that the action of the the Railways declaring Mr. Prashant Kumar, an orthopedic disabled candidate, unfit for engineering posts was bad in law. The Court said that under the Disability Act, reservation in engineering posts was to be provided to disabled persons and Mr. Kumar had a valid disability certificate entitling him to the benefit of such reservation.

Mr. Kumar had acquired a lower limb disability due to a childhood illness. Undaunted by this, he obtained a B.Tech degree in electrical engineering from one of the National Institutes of Technology in 2011. Thereafter, in 2012 he sat for the Engineering Services Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for recruitment to engineering posts under the Government of India. He was declared successful by the UPSC and recommended for appointment to the post of Electrical Engineer in the reservation quota for disabled persons.

A medical fitness test was conducted by the Railways Medical Board, the authority designated by the Government. Despite Mr. Kumar being in possession of a disability certificate entitling him to the benefit of reservation, the Medical Board found him unfit for all engineering services because of “weakness in upper and lower left limbs”, and by a 2014 letter, recommended that he not be appointed.

Disappointed and aghast at the decision of the Railways, Mr. Kumar approached the Disability Law Initiative, which filed a complaint with the Disabilities Commissioner on his behalf. By an order dated 31st December 2014, the Commissioner agreed with the submission of DLI that the Railways ought to have accepted the disability certificate of Mr. Kumar, as it was issued by the competent authority under the Disability Act. Further, the certificate found a disability only in the left lower limb of Mr. Kumar, and attested that he could perform substantially all of the functions that the Railways required for the electrical engineering post. Therefore, the Commissioner found that the Railways Medical Board was wrong to contravene the disability certificate and declare him medically unfit. On the contrary, Mr. Kumar ought to have been appointed in the disability quota. Accordingly, the Disability Commissioner directed the Railways to extend an appointment to Mr. Kumar.

Rather than implementing the directions of the Commissioner, an authority vested with powers to look into grievances of disabled persons, the Railways decided to challenge the directions before the Delhi High Court. DLI presented arguments for Mr. Kumar before the Court. The High Court’s decision on 11th October, 2017 in favour of Mr. Kumar was significant for two reasons: firstly, the Court rejected the argument of the Railways that the Disabilities Commissioner did not have the power to issue directions to it; and secondly, the Court gave pre-eminence to Mr. Kumar’s disability certificate as determining the nature and extent of his disability.

A copy of the Delhi High Court judgment in Railway Board vs. Prashant Kumar can be found here: Railway Board Vs. Prashant Kumar.