Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Madras High Court- An employee acquiring a mental disability can not be terminated


In a groundbreaking judgment, the Madras High Court, presided over by Justice K. Chandru, has set a significant precedent by ruling in favor of an employee who was terminated due to mental illness. This case marks a first of its kind where the provisions of Section 47 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (PWD Act), have been effectively utilized to protect an employee acquiring a mental illness while in service.

Case Overview

C. Narayanan, an office assistant at the Government Industrial Technical Institute, was terminated from his position in January 2001 on the grounds of "mental disability." The Director of Employment and Training, responsible for the termination, claimed that Narayanan was suffering from "dementia with mood disorder depression," as diagnosed by the Institute of Mental Health. Despite issuing a legal notice and later applying for pension and accepting terminal benefits, Narayanan contested the decision, leading to a legal battle that reached the Madras High Court.

The Court's Ruling

Justice K. Chandru, in his judgment, unequivocally stated that the termination of Narayanan's services was in direct contravention of Section 47 of the PWD Act. This section prohibits any establishment from dispensing with or reducing in rank an employee who acquires a disability during his service. The court highlighted the irony that the respondents, who belonged to the Department of Employment and Training, were expected to be knowledgeable about the rights of employees, yet failed to adhere to the provisions of the PWD Act.

Key Highlights of the Judgment

1. Reinstatement and Compensation: The court directed the State government department to pay Narayanan his full salary, including annual increments and other monetary and service benefits, from the date of his disability till the date of his retirement. This decision ensures that Narayanan receives fair compensation for the period he was unjustly deprived of his employment.

2. Legal Costs: The Director of Employment and Training was ordered to pay Rs. 5,000 as legal costs to Narayanan for the hardship caused by the dismissal and subsequent legal proceedings.

3. Recognition of Mental Illness as Disability: The judgment explicitly recognized mental illness as a form of disability under the PWD Act. This is a progressive step in ensuring that mental health conditions are given due consideration in employment and disability rights.

Implications of the Judgment

This judgment is a significant victory for the disability sector, as it reinforces the rights of employees with disabilities and sets a strong precedent for future cases. It sends a clear message to all employers, particularly government departments, about the importance of adhering to the provisions of the PWD Act. The case also underscores the necessity for greater awareness and understanding of disability rights among employers and government officials.


The Madras High Court's decision in favor of C. Narayanan is a landmark judgment that will have far-reaching implications for disability rights in India. It highlights the importance of protecting the rights of employees with disabilities and ensuring that they are not unfairly discriminated against due to their condition. Congratulations are in order for Justice K. Chandru, Narayanan, the disability sector, and the advocates who fought for this progressive and just outcome.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Disabled employees suffering as employers not aware of disability provisions

"Visually impaired and disabled persons don't require your sympathy, they need a little support," observed the Bombay High Court on Thursday.

While hearing a plea filed by Nilima Surve, who is visually impaired, the high court was surprised that the commissioner of disability had upheld her termination, instead of supporting her.

In November 2006, Chetna College at Bandra had appointed Surve as a junior clerk. But she was dismissed from service four months later. The college had cited "mistakes in her typing" as the reason behind the termination.

The division bench, comprising chief justice Mohit Shah and justice SJ Kathawala, was irked to find that Surve wanted a particular software to be installed to improve her work, instead she was sacked citing "unsatisfactory work".

Surve had approached the commissioner for disability challenging her dismissal stating she had merely sought installation of the software, Jaws, but the college chose to dismiss her in March 2007.

The judges got further annoyed when Surve's counsel Chetan Agrawal pointed out that the commissioner had passed some critical remarks in the order upholding her termination.

One such remark read: "The woman should have acquired the knowledge of technology available and used in the market instead of asking for a specific software."

Additional government pleader agreed that the order was contrary to the legislative intent, after the judges expressed anguish about the observations.

"The order is clearly arbitrary and contrary to the provisions of the [Persons with Disability] Act," Nitin Deshpande said. The high court also called for a meeting of all stakeholders — government officers, NGOs, representatives of visually impaired and handicapped persons — on January 15.

Measures to resolve the problems faced by the disabled will be discussed at the meeting to be held in the conference hall of the high court building in presence of the judges.