Provide 3% reservation in govt jobs to disabled persons: Supreme Court
In a landmark order, the Supreme Court prised open significant employment opportunities for the disabled by directing the Centre and states to implement within three months an 18-year-old law mandating 3% reservation for such persons in government jobs.
The 1995 Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act came into force on February 7, 1996 providing a minimum 3% reservation in government establishments to the extent of 1% each for persons suffering from blindness or low vision; hearing impairment; and locomotor disability or cerebral palsy.
The reservations will be implemented by all government departments, public sector undertakings and government companies at the Centre and states, enlarging opportunities for persons with disabilities eligible for benefits under the law.
The court rejected concern of the 3% quota breaching the 50% cap on reservations set by the SC itself in the Indra Sawhney (Mandal) judgment, indicating the reservations are to be carved out of existing Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, OBC and even general category seats currently lying vacant.
The National Federation of the Blind through advocate S K Rungta had moved the Delhi High Court seeking implementation of the law in letter and spirit while pointing out contradictions and deficiencies in the office memorandum issued by the Centre. The HC had allowed their petition. The Centre challenged the HC verdict in the SC.
The court rejected the Centre’s argument that 3% reservation to disabled would see quotas exceed the 50% cap as it said 49% reservation to SCs (15%), STs (7%) and OBCs (27%) in government jobs was vertical in character, while the benefits to disabled were horizontal in nature.
An apex court bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Desai and Ranjan Gogoi was moved by the distress caused to differently-abled persons and lamented the lackadaisical approach of the Centre and states in fully implementing the law.
“Employment is a key factor in the empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities. It is an alarming reality that disabled people are out of job not because their disability comes in the way of their functioning, rather it is social and practical barriers that prevent them from joining the workforce,” the court pointed out.
The bench added, “As a result, many disabled people live in poverty and in deplorable conditions. They are denied the right to make a useful contribution to their own lives and to the lives of their families and community.”
The court said even though the Centre and states had a categorical obligation under the Constitution and various international treaties relating to human rights as well as treaties to protect the rights of disabled, it is unfortunate that “even though the Act was enacted way back in 1995, the disabled people have failed to get required benefit until today”.
“We hereby direct the appropriate government to compute the number of vacancies available in all the establishments and further identify the posts for disabled persons within a period of three months from today and implement the same without default,” said Justice Sathasivam, who authored the judgment for the bench.
The court directed the Centre to issue instructions to all departments, public sector undertakings and government companies “declaring non-observance of the scheme of reservation for persons with disabilities should be considered as an act of non-obedience and the concerned nodal officers responsible for the proper strict implementation of reservation for person with disabilities, shall be departmentally proceeded against for the default”.