Showing posts with label Blind as Magistrate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blind as Magistrate. Show all posts

Friday, January 25, 2019

Supreme Court says people above 50% of hearing and visual disability can not perform as judge! [Judgement included]

Dear Colleauges,


However, a Supreme Court bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice KM Joseph on 22 Jan 2019 in the case titled V. Surendra Mohan vs. State of Tamil Nadu, shattered all my progressive writings and efforts to see more blind judges in India. The bench upheld the Tamil Nadu State’s policy of restricting the eligibility of blind and deaf candidates for the reserved posts of 'civil judge' to those with 40-50% of their respective disabilities. The SC Bench held,   "A judicial officer in a state has to possess reasonable limit of the faculties of hearing, sight and speech in order to hear cases and write judgments and, therefore, stipulating a limit of 50% disability in hearing impairment or visual impairment as a condition to be eligible for the post is a legitimate restriction i.e. fair, logical and reasonable  and that it does not contravene any of the provisions of the Disabilities Act 1995 or any other statutory provision."

I have seen judges's inherent biases and pre-conceived notions about disabling conditions often reflected in their judgements referring to persons with disabilities as unfortunate, crippled, wheelchair bound. This shows their lack of knowledge on disabling conditions and disability rights, however, this judgement has left me totally shaken. A common man's ignorance is pardonable, but for MyLords, whose pen has the ability to impact fate of millions of Indians with disabilities, it can be devastating for the hopes of many of them. The judges need to be well read and aware about the evolving capabilities of persons with disabilities with the advent of technology and science and the concept of reasonable accommodation that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provide. It is easier to label some one as 'incompetent' than set your own house in order. That is what the judiciary has done through this judgement despite the post of a judge identified as suitable to be held by a blind person by the Expert Committee constituted  by govt. of India, a bench renders them unsuitable!. Technically the bench should have refrained from stepping in to the shoes of the Expert Committee.

In the instant case, a person with seventy (70) percent blindness was denied appointment as a judge because he was more than fifty (50) percent threshold, the specified outer limit set by the Tamil Nadu State. Surprisingly, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion in the case that persons with more than the specified range of blindness are not eligible because they cannot perform functions of a judge!

In the background that several blind lawyers and judges are functioning well and the post is also identified as suitable for persons with disabilities by an Expert Committee under the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 and that the Act makes no restrictions of degree of  percentage of disabilities for providing job reservations and other benefits etc which are equally available to all persons above 40% disabilities, this judgement looks absurd.  Instead of holding that differentiation based on extent of blindness is invalid and working towards facilitating accessibility of ICT, processes and reasonable accommodations for judges with blindness, the Court decided to justify the decision of the Government and the Madras High Court, which took a stand that completely blind persons cannot perform the so called strenuous tasks of reading, writing, communicating, examining witnesses, following procedures, advising advocates, etc.

Background of the case

In 2012, the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission received a requisition from the State Government for filling up the vacancy posts of Civil Judge. The Commission wrote a letter to both the State Government as well as the High Court proposing to notify the percentage of disability as 40%-50% for partially blind and partially deaf for selection. The High Court communicated its approval to the aforesaid proposal which was also consented to, by the State of Tamil Nadu. The TNPC subsequently went on to publish the notification.

V. Surendra Mohan applied for the role of civil judge, however, his application was rejected on the ground that he was 70% blind (instead of below 50%). He challenged this decision in the Madras High Court upon which he was permitted to sit for the interview. Following his interview, Mohan’s application was again rejected. As a result, V. Surendra Mohan filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court. In 2015, the High Court held that the TNPC’s decision was lawful as it was in line with the State’s policy.

In 2019, Mohan appealed to the Supreme Court, challenging the rejection of his application as well as the policy on the basis of which his application was rejected, alleging it as arbitrary and unjustified.

The Bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice KM Joseph rejected this submission. It remarked that “a judicial officer in a State has to possess reasonable limit of the faculties of hearing, sight and speech in order to hear cases and write judgments and, therefore, stipulating a limit of 50% disability in hearing impairment or visual impairment as a condition to be eligible for the post is a legitimate restriction”.

The Supreme Court’s view that a totally blind person cannot function as a judge is trashed by live examples of  several successful blind judges in India and beyond. Accessible work place, computers with screen reading softwares, pleadings and documents in accessible format and reasonable accommodations is what is needed for their inclusion and this makes so many lawyers and judges do wonderfully well in their workplace.

Surprisingly, neither the State government or the High Court nor the Supreme Court have given any reasons as to justification of  50% disability cut-off when Persons with Disabilities Act makes so such distinction. No empirical evidence or research has been put forward to support that beyond the 50% threshold, a person would not be able to effectively perform his duties as a judge.  Supreme Court blindly relies on the government wisdom on this 50% cut-off, without questioning its scientific basis. It is also unclear as to how an advertisement by TNPSC pursuant to a “letter” from the government attained the status of an overriding legal norm. This matter wasn't referred to by the State to the Experts Committee. Decision was taken by babus based on their own whims and fancies and since it affected judiciary, the court also felt safe as they had not to change any infrastructure to accommodate a blind judge in their system. It is almost another level of apartheid visible in the present order. 

The present judgement also literally backtracks its own judgement dated 22 January 2019 wherein the Hon'ble Supreme Court had set deadlines to make public places accessible to persons with visual impairment. It had expressed that “it becomes imperative to provide such facilities so that these persons also are ensured level playing field and not only they are able to enjoy life meaningfully, they contribute to the progress of the nation as well.”  Instead of providing level playing field, this judgement deprives blind candidates from their established legal right  arbitrarily. This order is a black spot on the image of Indian Supreme Court which has otherwise been very proactive for the rights of marginalised communities and has always batted for their inclusion in constitutional spirit. Therefore, this needs to be remedied soon in coming days.

Read the judgement in PDF below in V. Surendra Mohan vs. State of Tamil Nadu, Civil Appeal No. of 83 of 2019:



Monday, November 21, 2016

Hyderabad HC Permits Blind Advocate To Take Judicial Service Exam pending his Writ Petition

Dear Colleagues,


This time, Mr. Arepalli Naga Babu, a visually-challenged IDIA scholar from Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, has yet again strengthened the well-known belief that the only disability in life is lack of will and fortitude. Acting on his petition, the Hyderabad High Court has directed the authorities to accept his application and permit him to write the Judicial Service Exam to be held on 27th of November 2016, which he was denied earlier. 

The court also directed that he be allowed to take the examination in a separate room with the assistance of a scribe and be granted 20 minutes extra for every hour to compensate for the disability. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice A. Shankar Narayana affirmed that he cannot be denied participation in the selection process under the open category merely on account of his handicap (blindness) and stated that ‘there does not appear to be any prohibition in the Andhra Pradesh State Judicial Service Rules 2007 prohibiting visually-challenged candidates from participating in the selection process for appointment to the posts in the AP State Judicial Service’. 

Naga Babu, a law graduate from National Law University, Odisha, and a practising advocate of the high court, said the exam notification issued for the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Judicial Services Exam confined the benefit of reservation only to the orthopedically handicapped and excluded the visually impaired persons. He stated that after he applied for the exam, he was informed that his application would be rejected as he was not entitled to write the exam and is neither eligible for reservation as per the rules.

Read more at: http://www.livelaw.in/hyderabad-hc-permits-visually-challenged-idia-scholar-naga-babu-take-judicial-service-exam/

Monday, November 2, 2015

Mumbai HC cites the capabilities of Blind as Solicitors & Advocates to deny claim of tax exemption for Eye Checkup

Dear Friends,

There are two areas worth noting in this judgement. Firstly, the Mumbai High Court has indicated that Blindness is no handicap in discharging the duties of a solicitor or an advocate and by that analogy even a judge. Secondly, you may not be able to claim tax exemption for tour expenses even for reasons of an eye test in computing the income chargeable under the head profits and gains from business or profession.

Shot in arm for disability advocates who have been facing extreme resistance from some states & their judiciary who have consistently denied people with blindness the opportunities of being  a judge by obtaining exemption under section 33 of the Disabilities Act. Crazy no?

Here is the news item from TNN:

Lawyer denied tax waiver for eye test done while abroad
Shibu Thomas, TNN | Oct 30, 2015, 01.30AM IST

MUMBAI: A person's eyes are not just used exclusively for professional purposes, said Bombay high court while rejecting a lawyer's claim seeking tax exemption for a foreign tour, which he claimed was a "pre-operative eye check-up".

A division bench of Justice M S Sanklecha and Justice Girish Kulkarni pointed to blind advocates practising in courts.

"Eyes are an important organ of the human body and are essential for the efficient survival of a human being. Eyes are essential not only for the purpose of business or profession but for purposes other than these," said the judges, adding, "We are not persuaded to accept the submission that eyes are required to be exclusively used for the purpose of profession. No evidence has been brought on record to establish that in the absence of investigation and treatment, the applicant would be handicapped in discharging his obligation as a solicitor/advocate. While at this, we cannot resist but point out that in this court itself, we have a couple of visually challenged advocates who are competent in discharging their duties."

The court also cited former advocate general of West Bengal Sadhan Gupta who was visually challenged. "It is therefore clear that the said expenditure as claimed by the advocate is not in the nature of the expenditure wholly and exclusively incurred for the purposes of the profession of the applicant and thus this expenditure cannot be claimed by the applicant to be allowed as deduction in computing the income chargeable under the head profits and gains from business or profession."

The court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Dhimant Thakkar, who claimed tax exemption for the period 1986-87 of an amount of Rs 43,600 for a foreign tour, which he claimed was in connection with preoperative tests. The income-tax department rejected the claim saying the expenses were for a personal reason.

The advocate claimed that but for this treatment he would not have been able to continue with his profession and therefore the expenditure ought to have been allowed as a deduction for professional expenses. The HC disagreed and concurred with the tax department that if the advocates claims were accepted, then "every and all expenses incurred on daily living and food would be allowable as part of tax exemption".

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

SC directs TN govt to keep a Judge slot for visually impaired candidate


Keep judge slot for 70% blind lawyer, SC tells Tamil Nadu govt
A Subramani, TNN | Jul 18, 2015, 05.54PM IST

CHENNAI: A CBI prosecutor suffering 70% blindness is close to realizing his dream of becoming a judicial magistrate, as the Supreme Court has directed Tamil Nadu government to keep one post of civil judge vacant for him.

An interim order to this effect was passed by a bench of Justice V Gopala Gowda and Justice S A Bobde on July 10.

Though V Surendra Mohan, 29, of Thiruvotriyur in Chennai got through written examination his name was not shortlisted for viva voce. He filed a writ petition for inclusion in the interview list. As an interim order, the court allowed him to take part in the interview and the result was kept in a sealed envelope. When it was opened after a later order, it was revealed that Surendra Mohan had secured 178 marks out of 400 in written examination, and 38.25 marks out of 60 in viva voce. To a court query, Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission said he was well within the zone of consideration and appointment for a civil judge post.

However, he was not considered for appointment since he suffered more than 50% visual disability, whereas a proposed amendment to rules limited the disability between 40% and 50% for eligible candidates.

On June 5, the high court upheld his exclusion saying, "Taking into account the nature of duties to be performed by the civil judge, the government in consultation with the high court, had proposed to restrict the applicability of the benefit of reservation only to those whose disability ranges from 40% to 50%."

Surendra Mohan took the case to the Supreme Court saying the high court "wholly erroneously relied on admittedly a 'proposed amendment' to deprive him of his right to be appointed as a civil judge on the basis of his partial blindness as provided under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995."

The judgment proceeds to reject the petitioner's claim without either an executive order or an amendment coming into force, he said, adding, "without the law having been changed, there was no basis for the judgment at all."

Reiterating that there is no way he could be excluded from the selection process, he said a GO dated April 11, 2005 clearly notified that PB (partially blind) persons are eligible for civil judge post. "The petitioner, who has 70% partial blindness, cannot in any way be excluded from the recruitment, he said, adding that the high court judgment overlooked the overwhelming discrimination in the system against the disabled, and in an egregious step it excludes the only fully eligible blind man."


Monday, July 6, 2015

Visually Impaired Public Prosecutor denied Magistrate post despite clearing Test, approaches SC

Please refer to my earlier post  titled "Committee of Judges decide a VH can not be a Judge in Tamil Nadu" dated 08 June 2015. The said candidate who is already working as a public prosecutor and denied elevation as a magistrate on flimsy grounds of disability, has finally approached the Supreme Court of India. The issue has been covered by Times of India succinctly below:

A 70% blind person rejected for magistrate post despite being selected approach SC
A Subramani,TNN | Jul 6, 2015, 01.06 AM IST

CHENNAI: Perhaps emboldened by the success of significant number of differently-abled people cracking the civil services examination on Saturday, and the case of Beno, the first 100% visually disabled person to be absorbed in IFS, a 70% blind person rejected for magistrate post despite being selected, is now knocking at the Supreme Court doors.

V Surendra Mohan of Tiruvottriyu, who is an assistant public prosecutor of the CBI at present, cracked magistrate selection test, but was denied appointment by the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission saying persons with more than 40% visual disability, could not be considered for magistrate's post. When challenged, Madras high court on June 5 upheld the rejection saying: "Taking into account the nature of duties to be performed by a civil judge, government in consultation with the high court, had proposed to restrict the applicability of the benefit of reservation only to those whose disability ranges from 40 per cent to 50 per cent."

The 'proposed amendment', does not deprive the benefit of reservation, but only restricts it to those whose percentage of disability is below 50%,' the high court reasoned.

Questioning the conclusion, Surendra Mohan filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court framing a volley of question of law. He said the high court had erroneously relied on admittedly a 'proposed amendment' to deprive him of his right to be appointed as a civil judge on the basis of his partial blindness as provided under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

Wondering whether the high court could proceed on the basis of a "proposed amendment" while ignoring the law as it stood, the SLP says when there is no other blind candidate available for any of the posts sanctioned, is it legal or equitable at all for the authorities to have relied on an internal correspondence between the government and the high court to ensure that no blind individual was accommodated.

Noting that with 70% blindness, he has been discharging his duties as an assistant public prosecutor, he said there is no legal basis for excluding him from the civil judge post. In a series of recruitment drives over the years, the posts reserved for the blind have gone abegging, Surendra Mohan said, adding: "This year as well, as a result of the illegal action of the authorities, no blind candidate has been recruited, reflecting a complete apathy on their part in discharging obligations placed on them by the Constitution and the laws."

According to an April 11, 2005 government order, for civil judge posts PB (partially blind) persons are eligible, the SLP said. A GO dated August 31, 2012 excludes only those with "complete blindness", and hence with 70% partial blindness he cannot in any way be excluded from the recruitment, Surendra Mohan has said.

Source: Times of India

Monday, June 8, 2015

Committee of Judges decide a VH can not be a Judge in Tamil Nadu

What can be more sad than this case wherein the judiciary has decided among themselves and advised the State Government that Visually impaired can not be function as a Judge! We have had many progressive judgements from Chennai High Court, but this one is pretty unreasonable. I am hopeful, this is challenged before the double bench soon.

Here is this story from Tamil Nadu appearing in Times of India.

Partial blindness shatters man’s judge dreams
A Subramani,TNN | Jun 8, 2015, 01.06 AM IST


CHENNAI: A person suffering from 70% blindness has failed to secure the post of a civil judge despite clearing the written examination and viva voce, as the Madras high court ruled that visual disability of more than the maximum permissible limit of 50% cannot be allowed for civil judges.

Dismissing the writ petition of the aspirant V Surendra Mohan, Justice V Ramasubramanian said, "Taking into account the nature of duties to be performed by the civil judge, the government, in consultation with the high court, had proposed to restrict the applicability of the benefit of reservation only to those whose disability ranges from 40-50%. If a person has not less than 40% blindness, he becomes eligible for the benefit of reservation. This fundamental and essential feature of the reservation is not taken away by the proposed amendment. The proposed amendment, while not depriving the benefit of reservation to those who come within the definition of the expression 'person with disability', restricts it to those whose percentage of disability, is 50% less. This cannot be termed as nullifying the effect of the statute."

Surendra Mohan, a partially blind person with the percentage of disability at 70%, applied for civil judge post, and passed the written examination. Since he was not included in the list of candidates short-listed for viva voce, he filed the present writ petition for inclusion in the interview list.

The court first allowed him to participate in the interview and said the result would be kept in a sealed envelope. But later it passed orders in favour of declaring the result, in purview of a different case. Surendra Mohan secured 178 marks out of 400 in written examination, and 38.25 marks out of 60 in viva voce, it was revealed.

A difficulty arose because a government order dated August 8, 2014, had made it clear that the benefit of reservation for the physically challenged is available only to those blind and deaf candidates whose percentage of disability is 40-50%.

S Vijay Narayan, senior counsel for Surendra Mohan, then assailed the provision saying it sought to dilute the benefits available to disabled people. Rejecting the submissions, Justice Ramasubramanian further said it was too late to challenge the selection, because, "a person, who participates in a process of selection, cannot later turn around and question the prescription contained in the very notification for recruitment."

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/Partial-blindness-shatters-mans-judge-dreams/articleshow/47578609.cms

Monday, July 21, 2014

A blind candidates wins legal battle to become a judge in Spain

Please refer to my earlier blog entry dated 01st June 2009  titled Can a Blind / Visually Impaired Person work as a Judge / Magistrate ? This was subsequently also posted on 06 June 2009, more than 5 years ago at Changemakers.com titled How can a blind / visually impaired person work as a Judge?

Delighted to learn that after a protracted battle, the Spanish Court has ruled in the favour of a visually impaired law graduate Mr. Pérez Castellanos’ restoring his equal right to become a Judge like his fellow law graduates.

An online petition on Change.org collected more than 100,000 signatures in support of Pérez Castellanos’ legal struggle.

Blind man wins battle to become judge
Photo Courtesy Change.org

Here is the news published in The Local:

Blind man wins battle to become judge

Published: 14 May 2014 11:49 GMT+02:00

Spanish legal authorities have ruled in favour of a blind 23-year-old law graduate who called for people with his disability to be allowed to become judges.

“Can a blind person like me carry out the work duties of a magistrate?” was the question sent by Gabriel Pérez Castellanos to the official body days after completing his Law degree in July 2013.

Ten months on and several adjournments later, Pérez Castellanos finally got the response he was hoping for.

Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary ruled unanimously on Tuesday that blind people can access state entrance exams to qualify as judges even though their job responsibilities may have to be adapted to suitable cases.

According to the report, evidence used in court that "can only be assessed with one’s eyesight" is limited and "not enough to completely rule out blind people from a career in the judiciary".

"I'm very happy, of course," the young man told The Local.

Having scored 7.9 in his Law degree (equivalent to a First Class Honours degree in the UK), Pérez Castellanos is now completing a Master’s degree at Garrigues, Spain's biggest law firm.

"The plan is to focus on labour law," he said of his future plans.

And while the budding lawyer admitted it would be more difficult for a blind  person to be a judge — as would be the case for many professions — he thought none of the challenges were insurmountable. 

"The main task of judges is to make decisions based on their knowledge of the law," he said.

Pérez Castellanos told the Local doesn't view himself as a spokespeson for blind people but admits he had been amazed, and delighted, by the repsonse to his situation. 

Online petition website Change.org collected more than 100,000 signatures in support of Pérez Castellanos' legal struggle.

Brazil, France, Peru and the UK already employ blind judges as stipulated in the UN's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

Source: The Local