Thursday, July 23, 2009

Employees with Disabilities can be denied promotion on grounds of efficiency, security and safety.

Dear Friends,

We have got in to a habit of opposing any thing that takes away rights of the disabled. But here is the time to think, cogitate and reason out. While on one hand the enabling PWD Act says that Promotion can not be denied on the grounds of Disability, this black judgement says people with disability can be a risk to safety & security to equipments, themself and to the organisation they work for, etc!

Hon'ble Supreme Court has said that Efficiency can be a ground to refuse promotions to those with disability if their disability poses a threat to the security, safety and efficiency. The issue is very sensitive for it goes against the intent of the beneficial legislation and poses threat of stagnation before an employee with disability or those who acquire a disability while in service.

The PWD Act actually mandates a social security system for those who happened to acquire disability or have disability that they don't get stagnated. And it is well known now that with assistive aids and devices, the employees with disabilities are no less than their non-disabled counter parts.

The problem is that there is no rehabilitation programme for those who acquire disability during service and also there is no sensitization in the superior officers who recommend or decide on promotions and sit in the Selection Committees and DPCs!

Even this judgement seem to be going against the spirit of the PWD Act and also doesn't take in to account the role of modern technology in enabling a person with disability while at work. Its easy to label some one unproductive, inefficient, risk for security and safety but equally difficult to remove these labels.

To me, this judgement reflects the attitude of general society toward the disabled. It reinforces a minimum medical standard for promotion even for disabled people. There were already biases and negative attitudes but the law was enabling the employees with disabilities to fight back and seek their rights.

I am sure this judgement would go as a dark phase in the history of disability and development and employees would never be promoted under this garb and would remain stuck at where ever they are.

I fear that under these situations and conditions, the Courts might come against Section 47 also and refuse the employee acquiring disability during service to even continue on the present post in the garb of security, safety and efficiency!! I deeply regret this judgement for I don't find it any way close to the intent of The Persons with Disabilities Act and as well as UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities!

My experience with The Indian Railways has been very negative so far as the rights of disabled in employment are concerned. At each step they have refused to accommodate people with disabilities in their workforce on some or the other ground and the sector had to knock the doors of the Judiciary. We had favourable judgements from the highly sensitized judges of High Court of Delhi and other high courts but this time the Railways have managed to manipulate and misrepresent the abilities of people with disabilities before the court as well as perpetuated their age old believe that disabled employees pose a risk even in the controlled set up like research laboratories!!

To me, its more a case of improper and misrepresentation of facts and law before the double bench and this is not in the interest of the disability sector. I don't see that after this judgement, the long list prepared by Min. of Social Justice of the Jobs suitable for People with disabilities is of any relevance!!

SC Vashishth, Advocate-Disability Rights

To reach from source click here: Times of India

Efficiency can be a ground to deny promotion to a disabled: SC

Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN 23 July 2009, 03:43am IST NEW DELHI: In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has ruled that the government or an employer can deny promotion to a disabled person if they are of the opinion that it can compromise efficiency, security or safety.

A Bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and P Sathasivam gave this ruling despite being fully aware of the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, which mandated that "no promotion shall be denied to a person merely on the ground of his disability". Allowing an appeal of the Union government, the Bench said the 1995 Act would have no significance where the employer stipulated minimum standards for promotion keeping in view safety, security and efficiency.

"If the employee is unable to meet the higher minimum standards on account of any disability or failure to possess the minimum standards, then the Act would not be attracted, nor can it be pressed into service for seeking promotion," said Justice Raveendran writing the judgment for the Bench.

Clarifying that it was not against the legislative intention behind the 1995 Act, the SC said: "Where the disability is likely to affect the maintenance of safety and security norms, or efficiency, then the stipulation of standards for maintaining such safety, security and efficiency will not be considered as denying a person with disability, promotion merely on the ground of his disability."

The Bench said it was aware of the intention of the Act, that was to give a helping hand to persons with disability so that they could lead a self-reliant life with dignity and freedom. "But, the intention of the Act is not to jeopardize the safety and security of public, co-employees, or the employee himself or the safety and security of the equipments or assets of the employer nor to accept reduced standards of safety and efficiency merely because the employee suffers from a disability," the Bench said.

The apex court, through this judgment, upheld the prescription of a minimum medical standard for promotion from Senior Research Assistant to Chief Research Assistant in the Research Designs and Standards Organisation of the railway ministry and upheld the Union government's decision not to grant promotion to a disabled person who did not meet the minimum standards.

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