Saturday, March 18, 2023

Supreme Court directs Consortium of National Law Universities to provide Scribe to those who are unable to find scribe, among other reliefs.

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench:  Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Chief Justice of India; Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha, Justice  and  J B Pardiwala, Justice

Case Number: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1109 of 2022

Case Title: Arnab Roy Versus Consortium of National Law Universities & Anr.

Date of Judgement: 17 March 2023

Cases Reffered: 

 1. Vikash Kumar Vs Union Public Service Commission & Ors.


The petitioner,  a lawyer and a disability rights activist, moved these proceedings under Article 32 of the Constitution of India challenging certain conditions which were imposed for the conduct of the Common Law Admission Test 2023 scheduled on 18 December 2022. The issue specifically addressed by the petitioner relates to the facilities for candidates who intend to avail of a scribe as the restrictive conditons have been imposed belatedly just four weeks before the exams which in turn would mean that atleast 13 visually impaired candidates would not be able to avail the scribe. This included denial of the right to a scribe to candidates who do not have a benchmark disability though they have a genuine difficulty in writing.

The Supreme Court bench  in this matter has taken a progressive stance while dealing with the Examination Guidelines to ensure equal opportunities for candidates with disabilities in the LL.B admissions process particularly about provisions for necessary accommodations and support to participate in the CLAT examination . 

The bench clarified that candidates appearing for the CLAT (Common Law Admission Test) examination conducted by Consortium of National Law Universities can either bring their own scribe or if it is not possible to do so, request the Consortium to provide a scribe who is then made available to the candidate.  Where the candidates are unable to find their own scribe and the Consortium provides a scribe, at least two days’ time should be provided so as to enable the candidate to interact with the scribe, directed the court.

The bench, headed by the Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud  passed several directions to guarantee that candidates with disabilities receive all the facilities specified by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,Govt. of India. The Court accepted the suggestion of the petitioner and emphasized the importance of issuing guidelines well in advance, ensuring clarity regarding the facilities available for candidates with disabilities.

Additionally, the bench also directed the consortium to align their guidelines with the official memorandum issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. While there were concerns that the condition of scribes not being involved in coaching for other competitive exams would limit the availability of scribes, the Court has allowed the consortium's request to ensure the sanctity of the CLAT exam. However, it also highlighted that the nature and contents of the Examination Guidelines cannot be frozen for the future. The Consortium would be at liberty to modify the Guidelines bearing in mind the exigencies of the situation and the constantly evolving nature of the knowledge and experience gained in conducting CLAT particularly in the context of the rights of PwD candidates.

This judgement is a significant step towards promoting inclusivity and equal opportunities in legal education. The Consortium of NLUs was established to enhance the standards of legal education and coordination among National Law Schools, and this decision aligns with their objective.

This judgement will undoubtedly create a more inclusive and fair admission process for aspiring law students with disabilities in line with the intention of the legislature behind passing the RPWD Act 2016.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Madras HC- Motor Vehicle Tax Exemptions to disabled can not be subject to condition that it is driven by the disabled himself [Judgement Included]

Court: Madras High Court (Madurai Bench)

Bench: Hon`ble Ms. Justice P.T. ASHA

Case No: WP(MD).1480/2023

Case Title: Angappan Vs. The Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu 

Date of Order/Judgement:  13/03/2023


One Mr. Angappan claiming to have 80% locomotor disability had approached the court after the Regional Transport Officer, Pudukottai had rejected his application for tax exemption. The officers had demanded production of the disability certificate and a certificate stating that the Angappan can drive the vehicle. They also sought for a certificate from the Retro Fitment Centre, which had adapted the vehicle. Though the certificates were produced, his application was rejected. The authorities however countered this claim by submitting that the tax exemption was available only for self driven vehicles. 

Clearing a misconception that persons with disabilities (PwD) would be exempted from paying tax for their motor vehicles only if they drive the vehicle, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court recently came to the rescue of Mr. Angappan, a person with 80% locomotor disability who, when he applied for tax exemption for registration of his car, was asked to produce a certificate that he could drive the car.

The court noted that the authorities had in fact misconstrued the provisions of the Government Order. The stand that tax exemption was available only for self driven vehicles was a misconception. Further, the court noted that in the present case, there were no major alterations as contemplated in the Act. The only alteration was for the easy ingress and egress of Angappan. Thus, the court held that Angappan was eligible for tax exemption and directed the authorities to grant the said exemption to him while alowing his petition. 

The Governmetnof Tamil Nadu Home (Transport -T) Department had passed a GO in December 1976 exempting persons with physical disabilities from paying tax for motor vehicles that are specifically designed or adapted for their use, provided that the said vehicles are used only by persons with disabilities. However, the purpose of the GO has been totally misconstrued by the authorities, the judge observed.

“They have understood the notification to be available only to motor vehicles, which are driven by the physically challenged persons themselves. This is an absolute misconception. The said notification is issued in tune with the definition of an ‘adapted vehicle’ as provided in Section 2 (1) of the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Act. The only condition prescribed is that the vehicle should be ‘used’ by the person, for whose use the vehicle has been adapted. Nowhere does it state that it should be driven by the said person,” the judge clarified.

"Neither the definition under Section 2(1) nor Section 52 specifies that it is the person, for whose purpose, the adaption is made, who should ride the vehicle. On the contrary, the definition of adapted vehicle makes it clear that the vehicle should be used solely by or “for such person”.

Justice Asha thus opined that the State should ensure that such persons who are granted exemption enjoy the same and added as below:

“Where a rule or regulation purports to grant a right to a particular section of society, courts must use the rule of purposive interpretation to ensure that the object of beneficial legislation reaches the intended section of the society,” 

The government order, read along with Section 2 (1) and Section 52 of the Act, clearly spells out that a physically challenged person, who owns a vehicle and has adapted the vehicle for his or her use, is entitled to the tax exemption, the judge added and allowed the petition.

Read the order /Judgement dated 13 Mar 2023 below:

Monday, March 6, 2023

DHC directs Delhi Govt. to undertake Special Recruitment Drive To Fill Up Vacancies For PwDs

Court: Delhi High Court
Case No. : W.P.(C) 8455/2017
Date of Judgement: 06.03.2023
Neutral Citation Number: 2023/DHC/001652


While disposing off a public interest litigation filed by National Federation of the Blind alleging inaction on the part of the Delhi Govt. in implementing reervation for persons with disabilities particularly persons with visual disabilities, a division bench of the Delhi High Court directed Chief Secretary of the Government of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) to undertake a special recruitment drive for filling up backlog of vacancies for persons with disabilities (calculated rom 1996 when the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 was enforced @ 3% and from 2017 till date @ 4% in various departments or establishments in a time bound manner. 

The division bench also set out a time schedule to be followed by the GNCTD to carry out the special recruitment for filling up the vacancies. Directing the concerned departments, the court said, “The notification of advertisement by DSSSB/ UPSC, as the case may be, for filling up back-log of vacancies for persons with benchmark disabilities against requisition sent to them be issued within 30 days from the date of receiving requisition. The DSSSB/ UPSC, as the case may, shall declare the result and the process of appointment be concluded within a period of 30 days from the date of declaration of result/ interview.”

Read the detailed Judgement below:

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Disabeld Candidates selected on own merit in open competition can't be adjusted against Reserved Disability Quota Vacancies.

Court: Supreme Court of India

Case: Civil Appeal No (s). 3303/2015  (arising out of Delhi HC Order dated October 11, 2013 in W.P.(C) 4902/2013 titled Union of India Vs. Pankaj Kumar Srivastava & Anr. )

Case Title: Union of India (Appellant)  Vs.  Pankaj Kumar Srivastava & Anr. (Respondent(s))

Date of Order: 01 March 2023

Brief Background:

In a significant development, the Central Government recently acknowledged before the Supreme Court that disabled candidates selected based on their own merit in open competition, alongside unreserved candidates, will no longer be counted within the 4% disability quota for public sector employment. This change is expected to result in more disabled candidates with lower merit rankings being chosen within the disability quota, ultimately increasing the overall representation of individuals with disabilities in public sector positions. 

This "own merit" principle for disabled candidates had been outlined in several DOPT Memorandums & other govt. circulars on reservations for persons  with disabilities previously, but it was not consistently followed by various public sector recruiting bodies. Shri Pankaj Kumar Srivastava, a visually impaired candidate, raised this grievance before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). He alleged that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) was not adhering to the principle of own merit for the Civil Services Examination. Several disabled candidates, despite their merit ranking in the unreserved category, were being placed within the disability quota. If they had been categorized as unreserved, Mr. Srivastava, next in line in terms of merit, would have secured selection within the disability quota.

In the case, the UPSC argued that the "own merit" principle couldn't be applied to disabled candidates due to their relaxed medical standards and the use of accommodations such as scribes and extra time for examinations. However, both the CAT and the Delhi High Court disagreed with the UPSC's stance, directing a re-evaluation of the disability quota for the relevant year by moving "own merit" disabled candidates into the open category. 

The UPSC argued that the principle of general merit as evolved by the judicial pronouncements and incorporated in the DoPT OM dated December 29, 2005 is incapable of application in respect of PH Category as the medical standards are incapable of being relaxed for application of the said principle. The principle is unworkable in the scenario of reservation in favour of differently abled persons. The term relaxed standard has not been defined in case of persons with disability and no illustration of relaxed standards as given in respect of SC/ST have been provided in case of person with disability. And that a PwD candidate who would fail medical examination would not be adjusted against the unreserved vacancy and could not be counted on merits. If medical requirements are not relaxed it would not be possible to allocate service to the persons with disability. And lastly a PH category candidate cannot be a general merit candidates because at least he has to avail one or the other relaxation in the medical parameters.  

The Delhi HC said, "There cannot be two opinions about the applicability of the principle of general merit in the light of the Office Memorandum dated December 29, 2005 and April 26, 2006 issued by the petitioner itself. The same is the situation reflected in the mandate under Rule 17 of the CSE Rules 2008. Thus it is not possible for the petitioner to contend before us that there is an error in the order of the Tribunal in issuing directions to consider the entitlement of the applicants on the basis of said principle. We affirm the view taken by the Tribunal with regard to its observation that grant of the facility of scribe and extra time of 30 minutes in the examination to the visually impaired candidates does not amount to relaxation of standards in their favour. The omission on the part of the executive i.e. DOPT which is the Nodal Department to issue Office Memorandum/Executive Instructions on matters pertaining to the Central Service has created a situation wherein the benefit is sought to be given on the one hand through the issuance of Office Memorandum(s) dated December 29, 2005 and April 26, 2006, and stands taken away by the other hand as a result of the inaction to issue the consequential amendment contemplated by Rule 17 of the CSE Rules, 2008.

The court further said that the Petitioner (Govt.) has itself caused a situation, whereby the entitlements which ought to have been available to the differently abled persons as early as on February 07, 1996 (the date of the commencement of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995) are being denied to them till today. The situation points out to a grim scenario which is the creation of the petitioner itself. The bench directed the Govt. to make the amendments as contemplated by Rule 17 fo CSE Rules 2008 and upheld the order of the CAT.

Appeal before the Supreme Court:

The matter was further appealed by UPSC in the Supreme Court of India which also rejected the UPSC's position and instructed the Government of India to issue a clarificatory circular to enforce the own merit principle. In compliance, the Government issued an clarifying Office Memorandum on September 27, 2022 on subject: Reservation for Persons with Benchmark Disabilities - Clarification with regard to the concept of own merit.

During the hearing on March 1, 2023, the Supreme Court directed that the OM dated 27 September 2022 be followed in all future selection processes strictly.

Access the Delhi High Court Judgement in W.P.(C) 4902/2013 titled Union of India Vs. Pankaj Kumar Srivastava & Anr.: