A win for inclusivity in employment: Disability is not unfitness, says High Court

In a case argued by Disability Law Initiative, a two judge bench of the Delhi High Court has rejected the appeal of the Railways and reaffirmed the view of the single judge of the Court that the disability of Prashant Kumar, a candidate for the Indian Engineering Services, does not render him unfit for engineering jobs. By its judgment and order on 10th August 2018, the division bench of the Court said that the Railways must comply with the order of the Disabilities Commissioner directing them to employ Mr. Kumar.

Mr. Kumar, a candidate with lower limb disability, had succeeded in the Engineering Services Examination, 2012, and was recommended by the UPSC for appointment as an electrical engineer in the Engineering Services of the Government of India. Subsequently, the Railways, being the service allocation authority, declared Mr. Kumar medically unfit for all engineering services on account of his disability. DLI approached the Disabilities Commissioner on behalf of Mr. Kumar, arguing that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of the Government of India had earlier notified that engineering jobs were suitable for persons with lower limb disability.  Further, Mr. Kumar’s disability certificate attested to the fact that he could perform substantially all of the physical functions required for the job. The Disabilities Commissioner found in favour of Mr. Kumar, noting also that the Railways were required to apply relaxed physical standards for disabled candidates.

The order dated 31st October 2014 of the Disabilities Commissioner, directing the Railways to employ Mr. Kumar, was unsuccessfully challenged by them before the single judge of the Delhi High Court, who dismissed their case on 11th October 2017, leading to the appeal before the two judge bench. The court decision of 10th August 2018, rejecting the appeal, affirms the prevailing disability law that reservation for disabled candidates is a facet of affirmative action, and the disability cannot be made a ground to declare such candidates as medically unfit.