April 18th, 2023
In a major development, the Central Government last month conceded before the Supreme Court that disabled candidates selected on their own merit in open competition along with other unreserved candidates will not be counted towards the 4% disability quota in public sector employment. This will result in more disabled candidates lower in the merit list being selected in the disability quota, and will therefore increase the overall representation of persons with disabilities in public sector jobs.
Although this “own merit” principle for disabled candidates had been laid down earlier in a number of Government circulars, it was not being followed by various public sector recruiting bodies. Pankaj Kumar Srivastava, a visually impaired candidate, complained before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT – a tribunal to decide public sector employment cases) that the UPSC was not implementing the principle of own merit for the Civil Services Examination. Several disabled candidates whose merit position was in the unreserved category were instead placed in the disability quota. Had they been put in the unreserved category, the complainant who was next in the merit list would have secured selection in the disability quota.
In the said case, the UPSC claimed that the principle of “own merit” could not be implemented for disabled candidates, for the reason that medical standards were relaxed for them and further that they used certain amenities like scribes and extra time for writing the examinations. However, the CAT did not agree with the UPSC, and directed it to recalculate the disability quota for the year in question, after moving “own merit” disabled candidates to the open category. This was affirmed by the Delhi High Court on appeal by the UPSC. The Supreme Court of India also did not agree with the stand of UPSC on further appeal by them, and directed the Government of India to come out with a clarificatory circular to apply the principle of own merit. In compliance, the Government issued an Office Memorandum on 27th September 2022. On 1st March 2023, the Supreme Court directed:
“We consider appropriate to observe that the appellant shall hence forthwith may comply (sic) the said OM for all selection processes to be held in future.”