Legislation for disabled should not merely remain in statute book, says Bombay High Court to Railway Recruitment Cell

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The Bombay High Court directed the Railway Recruitment Cell to process the candidature of a 31-year-old visually impaired woman for a grade D post on Wednesday.

The bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and MM Sathaye has set aside the cancellation of candidature of Thane resident Shanta Sonawane and directed the Railway Recruitment Cell to process her candidature within six weeks.

“The legislation for the disabled should not merely remain in the statute book; rather, the spirit behind the legislation must be applied by all authorities in its practical application, showing appropriate sensitivity and flexibility,” the bench said.

The bench noted that this case illustrates how administrative apathy can defeat the benefit of the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, enacted to support persons with disabilities.

“The Act of 2016 not only mandates ensuring equal opportunities for people with disabilities but also making necessary adjustments to meet their specific needs,” the bench said.

The court in its order noted that the concept of fairness in dealing with persons with disabilities is not only of treating them equal with others, but of affirmative action.

Sonawane’s candidature was rejected by the Cell pursuant to an error in her form regarding her birth year. Sonawane in her plea said that being visually impaired, she had sought the help of a stranger at an internet café while filling the form. This person had made the error inadvertently, she had said.

Individuals, such as Sonawane, who are 100 per cent visually impaired, cannot be expected to stand on an equal footing with other candidates in terms of usual activities, it added.

Visually impaired individuals may make mistakes, such as typing errors, due to their impairment or may need to rely on others, it added.

“These errors, stemming from their disability, should not result in discrimination or unfair treatment by employers,” the court said, adding rejecting the applications and then refusing to remedy the mistakes would contravene the principle of equality.

The court noted that by refusing Sonawane’s plea, the authorities, who were expected to handle the situation with sensitivity and flexibility, had failed to discharge their obligations under the Act of 2016.

“We therefore find that the rigid stand taken by the respondents (railways) is unduly oppressive and harsh and violates the objective of the Act of 2016,” the bench finally said.

Published By:

Ashutosh Acharya

Published On:

Feb 29, 2024

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