Thursday, July 16, 2020

Himachal HC to Doctors - Stop the practice of issuing Disability Certificates that can't stand legal scrutiny [Judgement included]

Dear Readers,

Finally the Judiciary has cracked the whip on the medical doctors who have been silently issuing Disability Certificates for a long time with a caveat added through a note - "This certificate is not valid for medico-legal purposes." Some have been writing on top or bottom of the Disability Certificate that "This certificate would not be valid for court cases or for claiming compensation."

The Himanchal Pradesh High Court has taken a serious note of this anomaly while hearing a case of a lecturer Ms. Kanchan from Sirmaur who had challenged her transfer. While the court found no merit in her petition, but during the course of the hearing, it was argued by the respondents that petitioner's  disability certificate issued by a chief medical officer, included a note which said the certificate would not be valid for court cases and for claiming compensations hence, it was not valid in the eyes of law.

The division bench of Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Jyotsna Rewal Dua then directed medical officers in the state against issuing certificates which are not valid in a court of law, terming such certificates “nothing short of being false and fabricated”. The court observed that a number of medical officers issue certificates to patients or people with disabilities with a note that the certificate would not be valid for court cases or for claiming compensation.

“It is high time that there is an end to this practice. Or else, it would give impetus to medical officers whether they be government doctors or private practitioners to issue such certificates which have no judicial relevance and are inadmissible, and are, thus, nothing short of being false and fabricated certificates which can be grossly misused,”  the Bench observed.

“We are convinced that this note has been appended only with the intent that the officer issuing the certificate may not be hauled up before the court or tribunal, if eventually such a certificate is found to be false in whole or in part. The court cannot approve this,” the court noted.

The Bench directed the Additional Chief Secretary (Health) to look into the matter and issue instructions to end the practice within four weeks.

Download the Court Judgement:  Court website link | Google Drive link

Himachal HC | Kanchan Versus State of H.P. & Ors | CWP No. 1915 of 2020 | 15 Jul 2020




Sunday, July 12, 2020

Supreme Court confirms that people with disabilities are socially backward hence entittled to get relaxations available to SC/ST

Dear Colleagues & Readers,

Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, in a significant decision, has confirmed that persons with disabilities are also socially backward, hence, are  entitled to the same benefits of relaxation as Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe candidates in public employment and education.

The three-judge Bench led by Justice Rohinton Nariman was hearing an appeal filed by Aryan Raj, a person with disability, against the Government College of Arts, Chandigarh. The college had refused relaxation in minimum qualifying marks in the Painting and Applied Art course insisting that persons with disabilities too need to meet the general qualifying standard of 40% in the aptitude test, whereas SC/ST candidates were given a relaxation to 35%.

Setting aside the college decision, the Supreme Court declared that Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe candidates require 35% to pass in the aptitude test, the same shall apply so far as the disabled are concerned in future.” The bench also allowed the petitioner Aryan Raj to apply afresh for the current year.

The SC Bench upheld a 2012 judgment of the Delhi High Court in Anamol Bhandari  v. Delhi Technological University case (Refer to my earlier post "Disabled Students must get same admission benefits as SC/ST, rules Delhi HC" discussing about the Judgement dated 12 Sep 2012 in the Writ Petition (C) No.4853 of 2012 Anamol Bhandari (minor) through his father/Natural Guardian Versus Delhi Technological University.)

The bench referring the 2012 judgeement said in its order, "…we follow the principle laid down in the Delhi High Court’s judgment in Anamol Bhandari (Minor) through his father/Natural Guardian v. Delhi Technological University 2012 (131) DRJ 583 in which the High Court has correctly held that people suffering from disabilities are also socially backward, and are therefore, at the very least, entitled to the same benefits as given to the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes candidates."

The bench also highlighted the Delhi HC 2012 judgement ibid on the need to craft new academic courses to specifically cater to the needs of people with intellectual disabilities. The judgement quotes,  “We cannot lose sight of the fact that intellectually/mentally challenged persons have certain limitations, which are not there in physically challenged persons. The subject experts would thus be well advised to examine the feasibility of creating a course which caters to the specific needs of such persons. They may also examine increasing the number of seats in the discipline of Painting and Applied Art with a view to accommodating such students.”

Wide Ranging Implications for Persons with Disabilties: 

While age relaxations are currently given to persons with disabilities in admissions to educational courses and in employment, however, the relaxations will also now be extended in qualifying marks. This will also impact the coveted examls like Civil Services where the number of attempts to persons with disabilities are currently equated with those available to OBCs. This will open up relaxations to them as available to SC and ST. Thus this would be a more enabling provision for this segment who have often been faced with challenges of inaccessibility and attitudinal biases.  This also set to change all public sector employments and admissions to high education courses.

Download the judgement: 

Aryan Raj Vs. Chandigarh Administration & Ors. Civil Appeal No. 2718 of 2020 dated 08 July 2020

or read below: 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

National Consumer Court directs LIC Chief to inculcate systemic improvements in future for “apt logical decision-making" for claims of persons with disabilities

New Delhi 11 July 2020

Court: NCDRC Delhi, Case No. RP/1849/2019   

Parties: Life Insurance Corporation of INdia Versus Anil Laxman Matade

The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC), has imposed a cost of  Rs 2.5 lakh on Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), and has directed it to pay the amount over and above the insured sum of Rs 1 lakh with 9% annual interest to a father and his daughter with intellectual disabilities. The Commission has come down heavily on the LIC for its adamant “mechanical decision-making without application of mind” while refusing to pay the assured amount.

Showing a mirror to LIC, the order said, "the name of the policy is very attractive “Jeevan Adhaar” i.e. “Life Support”, but, at times, this policy makes the consumer, in certain cases, as in the instant case, helpless, i.e. “Niradhar”, “life without support”- “crippled”. Thus, the insured is thrown in vacua..! after 20 years payment of all premiums." 

Background of the case

Mr. Anil Laxman Matade of Sangli in Maharashtra had taken Jeevan Aadhaar policy of LIC for his daughter with Down syndrome. The LIC had refused to pay the assured amount to Matade even years after he made full payment of premiums while citing conditions, which specified that only 20% of the amount would be released after his death and the rest in installments in 15 years.

Both the district consumer forum and Maharashtra State Consumer Commission had ordered in favour of Mr. Matade, but the LIC challenged the order in the NCDRC. The age of Mr. Matade's daughter is 34 and she has 75% mental disability.

Court's Order

The order passed by NCDRC on 10 July 2020  while holding the public sector insurance company responsible for “intransigent mechanical decision-making” and for going for litigation as a matter of routine, a two-member bench comprising Dr S M Kantikar and Dinesh Singh advised its chief executive to inculcate systemic improvements in future for “apt logical decision-making” in such cases of congenital mental disabilities in which the dependent cannot think and act for herself or himself.

The bench observed it was not amending the general terms and conditions of the policy, which specified that the sum assured is to be paid to the handicapped dependents/ nominees on the death of the insured. “However, the policy and its terms and conditions cannot be implemented in an arbitrary and mechanical manner without application of mind and without having regard to the facts and specificities of a particular case,” the order said.

It said the plight of a child and of her father and mother, and especially in the case of a girl-child having Down’s Syndrome, had to be understood and kept in view by the LIC with the due application of mind at the competent level while deciding Matade’s request to release sum assured immediately so that he may make adequate arrangements for his daughter while he is still alive.

“The LIC failed to appreciate that the daughter, a person with Down’s Syndrome would be in no position to apply her brain and to act for herself so as to make appropriate arrangements for her well-being on her own, when her father is no more, and that she would be in no position to pursue her claim with the LIC, far less agitate it in the consumer protection fora/ civil courts,” the order said.

The Court further warned the LIC saying, “Needless to add, in case of failure or omission in timely compliance, the District Forum shall undertake execution, for ‘enforcement’ under section 25(3) and for ‘penalties’ under section 27 of the Consumer Protection Act 1986.”

It is pertinent to mention that in January 2009, Delhi State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission had fined LIC for rejecting the claim of a Police Constable who suffered 69% disability due to amputation in hand on the ground that he was capable of earning wages, since he was allowed to continue working with Delhi Police for compassionate reasons under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.

Judgement dated 10 July 2020 

Download PDF Here or read below


NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
NEW DELHI
 
REVISION PETITION NO. 1849 OF 2019

(Against the Order dated 03/04/2019 in Appeal No. 605/2018 of the State Commission Maharashtra)


LIFE INSURANCE CORPORATION OF INDIA
THROUGH ITS ADDITIONAL SECRETARY(LEGAL) 
CENTRAL OFFICE H-39, FIRST FLOOR, 
NEW ASIATIC BUILDING CONNAUGHT CIRCUS,
NEW DELHI-110001                                                                     ...........Petitioner(s)

Versus  

ANIL LAXMAN MATADE
R/O. RAHUL COMPLEX, FLAT NO. 2, GUEST HOUSE,
SANGLI-416416
MAHARASHTRA                                                                        ...........Respondent(s)

BEFORE:  
  HON'BLE DR. S.M. KANTIKAR,PRESIDING MEMBER
  HON'BLE MR. DINESH SINGH,MEMBER

Dated : 10 Jul 2020

ORDER PRONOUNCED ON: 10th JULY 2020

ORDER PER DR. S. M. KANTIKAR, PRESIDING MEMBER

1.      The present Revision Petition is against the Order dated 03.04.2019 of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Maharashtra (hereinafter referred to as the “State Commission”) in First Appeal No. A/18/605.

2.       In the interest of justice, to provide fair opportunity to the Petitioner LIC, to decide the case on merit, the self-admitted delay of 15 days in filing the petition is condoned.

3.       Briefly, the case of the Complainant is that the Petitioner LIC issued a policy under its ‘Jeevan Adhaar Plan– without profits - with accident benefits’ to the Complainant Anil Laxman Matade w.e.f. 25.07.1996 for sum assured Rs. 1,00,000/-. The half yearly premium was Rs. 2,257/-. The Complainant’s wife was the nominee. The policy was for the benefit / welfare of the Complainant’s daughter who was mentally challenged with congenital Down’s Syndrome. The Complainant paid all premiums regularly till the maturity of the policy on 25.01.2015. After the policy matured, the Complainant claimed the sum assured from the Petitioner LIC, but the Petitioner LIC refused. Further, as averred by the Complainant, he was surprised and taken aback to be told that 20% of the sum assured would be paid to his dependent mentally challenged girl-child only after his death and the remaining 80% would be paid to her over a further period of 15 years thence.

4.       Being aggrieved by the refusal of the LIC to pay the sum assured, the Complainant filed a Complaint before the District Forum, Sangli alleging deficiency in service.  

5.       The LIC filed its written version and argued that the policy was for the benefit of only the dependant and would become effective only after the demise of the insured Complainant. The insured Complainant was not entitled for any payment during his lifetime. As per the terms and conditions of the policy only 20% of the sum assured was payable to the mentally challenged dependent daughter after the death of the insured Complainant and the remaining 80% was payable to her over the next 15 years.

6.       The District Forum allowed the Complaint and directed the LIC to pay the sum assured, Rs. 1,00,000/- along with interest @ 9% per annum with effect from 25.01.2016 to the insured Complainant and also awarded Rs. 20,000/- as compensation and Rs.5,000/- as litigation cost.

7.       The LIC preferred an Appeal before the State Commission. The Appeal was dismissed with cost of Rs. 5,000/-.

8.       Both the fora below, the District Forum and the State Commission, have returned concurrent findings in favour of the Complainant.

9.       We find the State Commission’s impugned Order to be well-appraised and well-reasoned. No jurisdictional error or legal principle ignored or miscarriage of justice is evident, as may require interference in the exercise of the revisional jurisdiction of this Commission.

10.     We may but add that, admittedly, the Complainant had paid all premiums for 20 years without any default, the last premium was paid on 25.01.2015, after the period of 20 years was over, he did not receive the sum assured from the LIC despite several requests, he waited for one year and thereafter served a legal notice on the LIC on 26.06.2016, the LIC has not shown any logical application of mind to the peculiarities of this case, but has intransigently adhered to a mechanical straightjacketed application of its terms and conditions by rote.

11.     From the record it is evident that the present age of the Complainant’s daughter is about 34 years, she is having 75% mental disability. No doubt the old parents have to struggle for the welfare and care of their Down’s - adult girl.  They are also concerned for her safety from unforeseen sexual exploitation. She needs to undergo hysterectomy. The Complainant has this only girl, he has no relatives who can look after his such handicapped daughter. 

12.     The LIC has brought this product to the consumers under the clothing of uberrima fide. The name of the policy is very attractive “Jeevan Adhaar” i.e. “Life Support”, but, at times, this policy makes the consumer, in certain cases, as in the instant case, helpless, i.e. “Niradhar”, “life without support”- “crippled”. Thus, the insured is thrown in vacua..! after 20 years payment of all premiums.  

13.     The Act, 1986 is a benevolent social legislation as has been held by the Hon’ble Apex Court in a catena of judgements from time to time, and is aimed at providing for better protection of the interests of the consumers. Given the facts in the present case at hand, the interests of the consumer can be protected only if he is provided a remedy from all angles for the care of his Down’s adult girl. It is a fight between two unequal. The intention of LIC is not to pay a single penny till the death of insured, which makes the father helpless (the whole matter cannot even be understood by the mentally – challenged dependent daughter for whose benefit the father took the policy and paid premiums for 20 years).  It is obvious that to secure the future of his daughter, the father, with good intention, took such policy, but he has been put to trouble and prejudice and made to struggle and face the intransigent arbitrariness of the LIC.  The approach of the LIC in the instant case is contrary to the principle of uberrima fide.

14.     To know about the agony & gravity of “Down’s syndrome and its social effects” we have gone through voluminous medical literature on the subject. Down’s syndrome is caused by triplicate chromosome 21 (Trisomy 21). The syndrome has a variable physical expression, sometimes it is associated with congenital cardiac defects, transient myelodysplasia (acute leukaemias) and duodenal atresia of the new-born. The care of the infant or young child with Down syndrome can be complicated and may involve a myriad of immediate and long-term medical problems, psychomotor and psychosexual development connected with mental retardation and endocrine disorders. Generalized tonic clonic seizures are the most common. IQs range from low normal to profoundly retarded.

15.     When the parents first learn that their baby has Down syndrome, they may feel disappointment, grief, anger, frustration, fear, and anxiety about her future.  The parents may react with shock, denial, anger, grief, fear, acceptance or any combination of these emotions. The Parents often have strong fears about the future of their child with Down’s disabilities. Dealing with the idea of someone else taking care of their child is never easy. As parents, their worry is that child will not be adequately prepared for the world. It is difficult for many to plan for such child. They face and realise their own mortality. There is a feeling always that no one will ever love, care for, and support their child. Thus the parents having Down’s daughter suffer agony and apathy throughout their life. Many parents think that if their child has money, he’ll be safe. Obviously, the financial resources, money, can help to make the child’s life more secure after the death of her parents.

16.     Privacy is important. The sexuality is an intrinsic aspect of human development. Individuals with Down’s syndrome need individualized instruction and education to develop appropriate socio-sexual behaviours. They still require routine and preventive reproductive health services including urological care for men and gynaecological care for women. They also need education and counselling to prevent unplanned pregnancy, abuse, and sexually transmitted disease. The mentally disabled individual is particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse and maltreatment for several reasons: isolation; communication deficits; etc. Other contributing factors include multiple living situations and transient caregivers, some of whom may be paedophiles. [Pedophilia (alternatively spelt paedophilia) is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children] 

17.     The essential crux of the matter is that the Complainant took LIC’s Jeevan Adhaar policy for his daughter, who is mentally challenged with Down’s Syndrome. That all premiums were paid and that the policy had matured is not disputed. The only dispute is that the LIC is intransigent that the benefit will accrue to the beneficiary i.e. the daughter of the Complainant only after his death, as per the terms and conditions of the policy. The Complainant on the other hand, pointing out that his daughter is mentally challenged, wishes to immediately obtain the sum assured and to make adequate arrangements for his daughter in his lifetime, for her future (when he is no longer alive and there is no one else to make the requisite arrangements for his daughter).

18.     We make it clear that we are not amending or adding to or subtracting from the general terms and conditions of the LIC’s subject Jeevan Adhaar policy. It is meant for the benefit of the handicapped dependents / nominees of the insured, the sum assured is to be paid to the handicapped dependents / nominees on the death of the insured. However, the policy and its terms and conditions cannot be implemented in an arbitrary and mechanical manner without application of mind and without having regard to the facts and specificities of a particular case. Making of adequate arrangements during his life time by the father of a mentally handicapped dependent (who would not be able to herself make arrangements or be able to agitate her case after the demise of her father) is nowhere precluded in the terms and conditions, that is to say, payment in such cases, in such facts and specificities, is nowhere precluded. The terms and conditions cannot be implemented in a straightjacketed mechanical arbitrary manner, with total disregard to the facts and specificities.

In this particular case, the handicapped dependent of the insured is an adult girl with Down’s Syndrome, she is not physically challenged, but is mentally challenged, and as such she cannot think and act for herself. The plight of a child and of her father and mother, and especially in the case of a girl-child having Down’s Syndrome, had to be understood and kept in view by the LIC with the due application of mind at the competent level (whichever it may be) while deciding the insured i.e. the girl-child’s father request that after the payment of all the premiums the sum assured may be immediately given so that he may make adequate arrangements for his mentally challenged daughter while he is still alive. The LIC failed to appreciate that a victim of Down’s Syndrome would be in no position to apply her brain and to act for herself so as to make appropriate arrangements for her well-being on her own, when her father is no more, and that she would be in no position to pursue her claim with the LIC, far less agitate it in the consumer protection fora / civil courts. The afore, which is the crux of the case, has been evaded and ignored by the LIC in its decision-making and in its litigation, both.

19.     The intransigent, arbitrary, mechanical decision-making and the intransigent, protracted litigation, in an issue in which straightjacketed mechanical adoption of the terms and conditions by rote was deemed to be inviolable, and understanding the nature of the handicap, that it is mental (repeat mental) challenge caused by Down’s Syndrome, was kept in opacity, overlooked and ignored, is well and truly evident.

20.     We have no hesitation in upholding the impugned Order dated 03.04.2019 of the State Commission and in affirming the award made therein. The award made by the State Commission shall, now, be complied with most immediately, without further delay. In addition, to compensate for the intransigent mechanical decision-making without application of mind and the intransigent protracted litigation by rote and the delay and trouble and prejudice caused to the Complainant and to his mentally challenged daughter, a cost of Rs. 2.50 lakh shall also be paid by the LIC to the Complainant, for the benefit / welfare of his mentally handicapped adult girl within four weeks of the pronouncement of this Order, without fail. The Chief Executive of the LIC shall ensure timely compliance.

Further, the Chief Executive of the LIC is advised to inculcate systemic improvements in future for apt logical decision-making in such cases of congenital mental (repeat mental) disabilities in which the dependent cannot think and act for herself / himself.

21.   Needless to add, in case of failure or omission in timely compliance, the District Forum shall undertake execution, for ‘enforcement’ under section 25(3) and for ‘penalties’ under section 27 of the Act 1986.

22.   A copy each of this Order be sent by the Registry to the Complainant, the Chief Executive of the LIC, the State Commission and the District Forum within three days of its pronouncement.

......................
DR. S.M. KANTIKAR
PRESIDING MEMBER
......................
DINESH SINGH
MEMBER

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Supreme Court says Reservation not a Fundamental Right on pleas for OBC Quota in TN Medical Colleges

Dear Colleagues,

Hon'ble Supreme Court bench headed by Justice L Nageshwara Rao today expressed that the reservation of seats to certain communities was not a Fundamental Right and refused to act on a petition filed by all political parties from Tamil Nadu seeking 50% OBC reservation in the all-India NEET seats surrendered by states.

It was argued that the Union Ministry for HRD and the Tamil Nadu State government were not following the state policy on reservations in filling up seats surrendered by states in NEET, including admissions for undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate, dental and diploma courses in medicine in private and government colleges.

Justice LN Rao lauded the sentiment behind the move, which had parties of all shades from the state on the same page, as “unusual” for Tamil Nadu  and said “We appreciate the concern of all political parties for the welfare of Backward Classes. But reservation is not a Fundamental Right.”

"Right to reservation is not a fundamental right. That's the law today," remarked Justice Rao, as the bench took up petitions claiming violation of fundamental rights by not keeping seats reserved in the medical colleges in Tamil Nadu for its OBC students.

Petitioners argued that  OBC reservations had been introduced after a long political fight but was being denied to the affected sections in the state and insisted that non-implementation of such reservations in the state amounted to violation of Fundamental Rights of its residents.

However the Hon'ble Supreme Court  remained unimpressed with such submissions, and questioned how a petition under Article 32 could be maintainable when there is no fundamental right to have reservation benefits.

"Whose fundamental rights are being violated? Article 32 is available only for violation of fundamental rights." expressed the Bench.

When argued that the premise of the cases are violation of the law on reservation by the Tamil Nadu government,  Hon'ble Court asked the petitioners to approach the Madras High Court saying “You should withdraw it and go to the high court. You are only interested in 50% reservation in Tamil Nadu.”

It is pertinent to mention that in February 2020, the apex court had held there is no fundamental right to claim reservation in public jobs and no court can order a state government to provide for reservation to SC/STs.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Allahabad High Court issues notice to waive fees of students with disabilities as online classes not accessible


Parents of a child with autism have filed a petition before the Allahabad High Court against the school asking for fees in spite of the student not attending online classes during lockdown. The court issued a notice asking all CBSE affiliated schools to waive-off fee for children for benchmark disabilities in terms of  RPWD Act, 2016.

For many students with disabilities, the lockdown resulting from the COVID19 pandemic has definitely been difficult. Students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are clueless on how to pursue their education through online classes which are not easy for many of them. 

In the instant case, the child with autism is studying in class third at Amit International School in Lucknow. He has been unable to attend online classes due to his developmental disability. He is also undergoing therapies for the same. He has not attended most of his ongoing online classes as he finds them difficult to follow. But since last March, his school authorities have been regularly sending messages to his parents asking them to deposit the school fee at the earliest.

As per the petition filed before the court, there are thousands of children with different disabilities across Lucknow. Many are unable to attend online classes due to their disabling conditions. Demanding fees from such children is an act that must be punishable. Moreover, this system does not provide inclusive education either for students with disabilities.

The matter was heard by the bench of Justice Pankaj Kumar Jaiswal & Justice Saurabh Lavania through video-conferencing. The bench was pleased to issue Notices to the school authorities through e-mail, WhatsApp and messages.

This notice from the high court comes as a big relief to the parents. The schools have not been providing inclusive education nor have sufficient trained teachers. Many parents have formed or joined many support groups for helping each other and sharing of information etc.

Sad reality
This is a sad reality for all stakeholders that despite the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 and Right to Education Act (RTE) making provisions for free and compulsory education to students with disabilities from 6 to 18 years of age, most of these parents end up bearing so many expenses and receive no quality education for their children. They have to pay for the child’s therapies & related medical conditions. Apart from the exorbitant school fee being forced upon them, there are expenses of transporting children by school buses. On top of it, many schools insist the parents to hire shadow teachers at their own cost as a pre-condition to allow admission to a child with disability. This is double whammy for parents of intellectually and developmentally disabled (IDD) children. 

Way ahead
The education sector, particularly private schools need to wake up to make appropriate adaptations in the syllabus and teaching methodologies to be more sensitive and inclusive towards the needs of students with disabilities. The notice of the court is the first step is right direction. However, we hope that parents get relief even after the impact of COVID19 lockdown the something positive comes out of this litigation in larger interest of similarly placed parents & students with IDD.

Watch this space for more updates or follow the blog.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Create separate fund to aid disabled persons: Telangana High Court

Hyderabad, 23 May 2020

The High Court Division bench heard a plea filed by Ganesh Karnati seeking a direction to the State government to alleviate the problems faced by the physically disabled during this lockdown period. 

It further sought a direction to the Telangana Police to issue passes to the caretakers of the disabled, specially challenged persons so as to enable them to get groceries, medicines and other help.

Expressing utter dismay and surprise over the insufficient allocation of Rs. 10,000 to each District Welfare Officer to enable him to take care of the physically disabled and physically challenged persons, the Division Bench asked the Advocate General, B.S. Prasad, the rationale behind such meagre allocation. 

For 40,000 Advocates, the State government has created a corpus of Rs. 25 crore, whereas for a population of more than 7,81,317 lakh physically disabled persons, an allocation of Rs one crore is a pittance and the State has literally let these poor, needy and the weakest section of the society to survive at the mercy of the donors, opined the bench. 

It is a sorry state of affairs, where the state is totally ignoring these physically disabled persons, their rights and interest cannot be ignored by the State Government, that too during the pandemic Covid-19 period.

About 21,565 physically disabled persons live in Warangal and 26,717 persons with disabilities  live in Warangal rural and going by the scanty allocation of Rs. 10,000 to each district, how do you think the concerned Welfare officer will provide them with essential commodities when most essential commodities prices have spiralled in the last couple of days, where dal is sold at Rs. 200 per kg and tamarind at Rs. 180 per kg.

Therefore, the State has to rush to their rescue by allocating sufficient funds for them immediately. They have the Right To Life enshrined in the Constitution and the State has to protect them in its capacity. "Ask the Government to immediately release more money to these persons with disabilities", the Bench added. 

Further, Chief Justice Chauhan asked Advocate General B.S.Prasad to find out the whereabouts of the letter addressed by the Director, Department of Disabled Welfare and Senior citizens to the Special Chief Secretary, Telangana Govt., requesting for creation of a separate fund with the department of disabled welfare and senior citizens so that such fund can be spent to extend various facilities to the disabled during this lockdown. 

It seems the Govt., has not given any response to such a letter, observed Chief Justice Chauhan.  Advocate General B.S. Prasad while putting a firm stand on behalf of the Government informed the Bench that the allocation of Rs. One crore is to ameliorate the distress conditions of the physically disabled persons in the State during this extreme period and is a specially allocated fund by the TS govt. 

Apart from this, the State Government is providing 12 Kg rice, Rs.1500 per family to 87.50 lakh white ration cardholders. Any complaint on non-receipt of ration or money, they can approach concerned District Welfare officers, who will attend to their needs, AG said. The matter was been adjourned to May 29.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Accident having occurred during leave and not attributable to government service - Claim for disability pension not sustainable (CCS(EOP) Rules, 1939)




HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT ALLAHABAD

AFR
Reserved
In Chamber

Case :- SPECIAL APPEAL No. - 1178 of 2019

Appellants :- Union of India through the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi and 3 others
Respondent :- Raj Bahadur Singh s/o Veer Singh, r/o Murauli, P.O. Durgaganj, District Rampur
Counsel for Appellants :- Ashok Singh
Counsel for Respondent :- Divakar Rai Sharma

Hon'ble Biswanath Somadder,J.
Hon'ble Dr. Yogendra Kumar Srivastava,J.
(Per : Dr. Yogendra Kumar Srivastava,J.)

1. The present special appeal seeks to challenge the judgment and order dated 27.05.2019 passed in Writ-A No.53145 of 2004 (Raj Bahadur Singh Vs. Union of India and others) whereby the writ petition has been allowed and the orders passed by the respondent authorities in terms of which the claim of the petitioner for disability compensation under the Central Civil Services (Extraordinary Pension) Rules, 19391 stood rejected, have been set aside, and a direction has been issued to the respondents to compute the benefits payable to the petitioner under the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939 and to pay the same within a stipulated time period as per terms of the order.

2. The Union of India through Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi, and the authorities of the Central Reserve Police Force, who were the respondents in the writ petition, are the appellants before us.

3. The principal grounds canvassed before us on behalf of the appellants is that the respondent-petitioner was not entitled to the benefit of disability compensation inasmuch as he was not 'homebound' when he met with the accident, as he had already reached home and the accident occurred when he was engaged in his personal work and as such there was no causal connection/ attributability between the disablement and government service, and the interpretation given by the learned Single Judge to Rule 3-A(1)(a) of the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939, is erroneous and the judgment and order is legally unsustainable.

4. It has been pointed out that the respondent was sanctioned leave for 14th, 15th, and 16th December, 1998 with permission to avail 13th December, 1998, the same being a Sunday, and he had left the Unit, where he was posted, on 13th December, 1998 itself to reach his home town on the same day which is only at distance of 110 kilometers from the Unit he was posted, having a travelling time of about three hours, and in view of the same the accident having occurred on 14th December, 1998, the respondent petitioner could not in any manner be said to be 'homebound' at the relevant point of time.

5. Per contra, learned counsel appearing for the respondent-writ petitioner has supported the order passed by the learned Single Judge by submitting that the petitioner having met with an accident on 14th December, 1998 while he was on leave for a short period, the same would be considered to be on duty, and he would be entitled to get the disability benefit.

6. The facts of the case, which are reflected from the records before us, indicate that as per the case set up in the writ petition, the petitioner was on leave from 14th December, 1998 to 16th December, 1998, when he met with an accident, which occurred on 14th December, 1998 while he was going to his house by a scooter which was hit from the opposite side by a three-wheeler. The claim raised by him for disability pension under the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939 was based on a contention that the leave being for very short period, he would be considered to be on duty and would be entitled for the disability pension.

7. The claim raised by the petitioner for disability pension under the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939, was rejected by the Commandant of the Battalion by means of an order dated 6th April, 1999, the operative portion of which reads as follows :-
‘‘1. चॅूकि बल संख्या-911182766 सिपाही राज बहादुर सिंह का एक्सीडेंट दिनांक 14/12/98 को लगभग 17 बजे दिनांक 14/12/98 से 16/12/98 तक 3 दिन के अवकाश दिनांक 13/12/98 की अनुमति सहित, के दौरान अपना निजी कार्य संपन्न करते समय अपने पैतृक गॉव में हुआ है, अतः उक्त दुर्घटना के परिणाम स्वरूप हुए नुकसान अथवा भविष्य में होने वाली किसी भी असक्तता के लिए उक्त कार्मिक केरिपुबल विभाग से किसी प्रकार के दावे/प्रतिपूर्ति का हकदार नहीं होगा तथा उक्त दुर्घटना सरकारी ड्यूटी पर न मानी जा कर कार्मिक के द्वारा निजी कार्य संपन्न करते समय निजी कार्य हेतु मानी जाये।2. कार्मिक के ईलाज की अवधि का समय समय पर कार्मिक के अवकाश की हकदारी के अनुसार नियमित कर दिया जाये।’’
8. Thereafter, the respondent-petitioner submitted a representation before the Deputy Inspector General, CRPF, Rampur raising a plea that the accident having occurred during the period of casual leave the same would be considered to be as a period on duty as per the relevant rules and accordingly the accident would be deemed to be while on government duty and accordingly he was entitled to disability pension. The claim sought to be raised by the respondent-petitioner was rejected by the Deputy Inspector General, CRPF by means of an order dated 5th April, 2004 stating therein that there was no provision under the relevant rules that the period spent on casual leave would be treated to be as that on duty and therefore the accident having occurred when the respondent-petitioner was on casual leave the same could not have been treated to be an accident while on duty.

9. Aggrieved against the aforesaid two orders, the respondent-petitioner preferred another representation before the Director General of Police, CRPF, Lucknow, reiterating his contention that the accident having occurred during a period when he was on casual leave the same would be treated to be as a period spent on duty. The representation of the petitioner was turned down by the Director General, CRPF, by assigning the reason that there was no provision under the rules to treat the period of casual leave as that on duty and therefore the respondent petitioner could not claim entitlement to disability pension.

10. The stand taken by the respondents (appellants herein) with regard to the claim set up by the petitioner, as reflected from the averments made in the counter affidavit filed in the writ petition, is being extracted below :-


"3(a). That while the petitioner was working as Constable/General Duty at 62 Bn. C.R.P.F. C/o. 56 APO. He has sanctioned three days Casual Leave i.e. for 14th, 15th and 16th December, 1998 with the permission to avail 13th December, 1998, being Sunday.
3(b). That on 14th December, 1998 when he was on leave, he met under an accident with three wheeler at his home town at Hardoi while he was doing his own work and he sustained the fracture injury in his right leg due to said accident.x x x x x5. That in reply to the contents of paragraph no. 3 of the writ petition, it is submitted that on 14th December, 1998 at his home town while the petitioner was on sanctioned leave the accident took place in which he receive the injury in his right leg. However, on 6.4.1999 an order has been passed that as per Rule petitioner is not entitled for disability benefits."
11. In order to appreciate the rival contentions, the provisions with regard to disability pension under the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939, may be adverted to.

12. The relevant extracts from the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939, are as follows :-

"3. For the purpose of these rules unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context,(1) 'accident' means,(i) a sudden and unavoidable mishap; or(ii) a mishap due to an act of devotion to duty in an emergency arising otherwise than by violence out of and in the course of service;(2) 'date of injury' means,(i) in the case of accident or violence, the actual date on which the injury is suffered or such date, not being later than the date of the report of the Medical Board, as the President may fix; and(ii) in the case of disease, the date on which the Medical Board reports or such earlier date as may be fixed by the President with due regard to the opinion of the Medical Board;3-A. Disablement/Death.--(1)(a) Disablement shall be accepted as due to Government service, provided that it is certified that it is due to wound, injury or disease which,(i) is attributable to Government service, or(ii)existed before or arose during Government service and has been and remains aggravated thereby.(b) Death shall be accepted as due to Government service provided it is certified that it was due to or hastened by,(i) a wound, injury or disease which was attributable to Government service, or(ii) the aggravation by Government service of a wound, injury or disease which existed before or arose during Government service.(2) There shall be a causal connection between,(a) disablement and Government service; and(b)death and Government service, for attributability or aggravation to be conceded. Guidelines in this regard are given in the Appendix which shall be treated as part and parcel of these Rules."
13. We may also refer to the 'Guidelines for conceding attributability of disablement or death to government service', referable to Rule 3-A(2), appended to the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939.

14. In particular, we may refer to clause 4(b) and 4(c) of the aforesaid guidelines, which are as follows :-

"4(b) A person subject to the disciplinary code of the Central Armed Police Battalions, is 'on duty',(i) When performing an official task or a task, failure to do which would constitute an offence, triable under the disciplinary code, applicable to him.(ii) When moving from one place of duty to another place of duty irrespective of the method of movement.(iii) During the period of participation in recreation, organized or permitted by service authorities, and during the period of travelling in a body or singly under organized arrangements.(iv) When proceeding from his duty station to his leave station on returning to duty from his leave station at public expenses, that is, on Railway warrant, on cash TA (irrespective of whether Railway warrant/cash TA is admitted for the whole journey or for a portion only), in Government transport or when road mileage is paid for the journey.(v) When journeying by a reasonable route from one's official residence to and back from the appointed place of duty irrespective of the mode of conveyance, whether private or provided by the Government.(c) An accident which occurs when a man is not strictly 'on duty' as defined above, may also be attributable to service, provided that it involved risk which was definitely enhanced in kind or degree by the nature, conditions, obligations or incidents of his service and that the same was not a risk common to human existence in modern conditions in India. Thus, for example,where a person is killed or injured by someone by reason of his belonging to an Armed Police Battalion (and in the course of his duty in such service, he had incurred wrath of such person) he shall be deemed to be 'on duty' at the relevant time.This benefit will be given more liberally to the claimant in cases occurring on 'active service' as defined in the relevant Acts/Rules (e.g., those applicable to BSF/CRPF, etc., Personnel)."
15. It may be noted that the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939, are applicable to all Central Government servants paid from Civil Estimates other than those to whom the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923, applied, whether their appointments are permanent or temporary on a scale of pay or fixed pay or piece-work rate.

16. The CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939, provide for the grant of award in the form of monthly pension or lump sum compensation in certain circumstances, including a case, where a government servant is boarded out of government service on account of his disablement due to wound, injury or disease and the disablement is accepted as due to government service, the government servant would be granted disability pension. This disability pension would be in addition to invalid pension/gratuity, if admissible under CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972.

17. As we have already noticed the appellants/respondent have taken a specific stand that the respondent-petitioner had been sanctioned three days' casual leave for 14th, 15th, and 16th December, 1998 with a permission to avail 13th December, 1998 being a Sunday, and during the period when he was on leave on 14th December, 1998, he met with an accident at his home town while on his own work and there would be no entitlement to disability benefit to a person in a case where disability had occurred other than on government duty and accordingly orders were passed by the authorities rejecting his claim. It was also stated that there was no provision in terms of which a period of casual leave is to be treated as a period on duty, as claimed by the petitioner.

18. The stand taken by the respondents/appellants in their counter affidavit has been taken note of by the learned Single Judge in the judgment under appeal in the following manner :-
"A Counter Affidavit has been filed by respondents admitting that petitioner was working as Constable (General Duty) at 62 Battalion, CRPF, C/o 56 APO. He was sanctioned three days casual leave, i.e., 14th, 15th and 16th December, 1998 with the permission to avail 13th December 1998 being Sunday. On 14.12.1998 while riding a Scooter and going to his hometown at Hardoi, petitioner met an accident with a three-wheeler causing fracture in his right leg."

19. Similarly, the order dated 6th April, 1999 passed by the Commandant, CRPF, rejecting the claim of the respondent petitioner for disability pension has been taken note of in the judgment under appeal, as follows :-


"Whenever a person is granted leave, it cannot be said that as soon as he is relieved at the place of posting or moves towards his hometown, process of journey would not be attributable to Government service inasmuch this journey is also being undertaken by the employee concerned which is directly attributable to his service inasmuch as a part of service conditions, he was posted at a place other than his hometown. Therefore, till the incumbent reaches his hometown on official leave, in my view, the entire process of journey will be part of official duty being attributable to Government service and has casual connection to such service."

20. The judgment under appeal proceeds on the premise that the claim of the petitioner had been rejected for the reason that the petitioner had met with an accident while proceeding on leave and that the accident occurred on 14th December, 1998 while the petitioner was on his way to his home town. It is on the basis of this presumption that the learned Single Judge proceeded to formulate the issue in dispute and also to record his view in the following manner :-
"7. In the present case, petitioner met an accident when he was granted leave and going to his Hometown from the place of his posting. "Whether an employee when returns to Home from his Office or place of posting, if meets and accident, can it be said to have occurred during the course of employment and in the present case can it be said that it has connection with Government duty" is the moot question to be answered."8. In my view, it cannot be said that returning to Hometown from place of posting has no direct connection with the Government duty inasmuch, leave when granted to a Government servant is part of service condition and when Government servant is returning to his house from the place of posting, it is an incident of service having direct connection with the Government duty otherwise there would not have been any occasion for the Government Servant to undertake journey to return to his Hometown.9. When an Government Servant is granted leave and he proceeds from his place of Posting to his residence, can it be said that as soon as he leaves the place of postings, he ceased to be a Government Servant and there is no connection with Government duty at all is also an issue which has to be examined in the light of spirit of Rules with which Rules, 1939 have been framed.
10. The aforesaid Rules are for the welfare of employees who sustain injuries, disease etc. during course of duty or when they are doing something which has any connection with the Government Duty."

21. On a plain reading of the pleadings in the writ petition, as are evident from the records, it is seen that the issue which was formulated by the writ court did not at all arise in the facts of the case.

22. In the counter affidavit filed in the writ petition, the appellants/respondents nowhere took a stand that the accident occurred on 14th December, 1998 while the petitioner was going to his home town and that his claim for disability pension was turned down for that reason. The order dated 6th April, 1999 passed by the Commandant, CRPF, rejecting the claim of the petitioner for disability pension, is also not for the reason that the accident occurred when the petitioner was proceeding on leave as has been noted in the judgment under appeal.

23. It is also not the stand of the writ petitioner in the writ petition, or at any stage when he raised his claim for disability pension before the authorities, that the accident occurred on 14th December, 1998 while he was proceeding on leave or was on way to his home town. On the contrary, the admitted case of the petitioner was that the accident occurred while he was on leave and the basis of the claim set up by him was that the leave being for a very short period he would be considered to be on duty and would be entitled for disability pension on the basis thereof.

24. It thus emerges from the admitted stand of the parties that the petitioner had been sanctioned three days' casual leave for 14th, 15th and 16th December, 1998 with permission to avail 13th December, 1998, being a Sunday, and it was on 14th December, 1998 during the period when the petitioner was on leave that the accident occurred. The claim set up by the petitioner was based on the ground that the leave being for a short period, the petitioner ought to have been considered to be on duty when the accident occurred.

25. The precedents which have been referred to in the judgment under appeal, are mostly in respect of matters relating to the Workmen Compensation Act, 1923, and the interpretation of the expression 'in the course of employment' which term as per the settled legal position has been held to connote not only actual work but also any other engagement, natural and incidental thereto.

26. There can be no quarrel with the aforesaid proposition of law and in particular that the expression 'in the course of employment' would stand reasonably extended both as regards work-hours and work-place by applying the doctrine of notional extension as to time and place. The narrow interpretation that an accident would be said to have arisen 'out of and in the course of employment' only if the workman sustained injuries at the place of his employment, would be totally out of sync with the present times where modern management methods and developments have made it wholly unnecessary to consider a workman on duty only when he reaches his place of work or starts working and the principle of notional extension of the employers' premises has been adopted in the context of claims relating to workmen compensation. It is in this context of notional extension of the employers' premises that in a case where an employee dies while going to join his duty or while coming back from duty, would be deemed to be 'in the course of his employment'.

27. As we have already noticed, in the facts of the present case, the accident having admittedly occurred while the petitioner was already availing leave and was neither in the process of undertaking a journey home from duty or going back to duty the issue with regard to notional extension of the employers' premises would not arise in the present case.

28. The question which was therefore posed by the learned Single Judge while deciding the writ petition does not arise in the facts of the case at hand since it was not the case of the petitioner that the accident occurred while he was undertaking a journey back home from his place of work and for the said reason the accident could not be said to have occurred 'in the course of employment'.

29. The law with regard to applicability of the doctrine of precedents is well settled. It has been consistently held that a judgment is only an authority for what it actually decides and not what logically follows from the various observations made in the judgment. In order to fully understand and appreciate the binding force of a decision, it is always necessary to see what were the facts of the case in which the decision was given and what was the point decided.

30. In the case of The State of Orissa Vs. Sudhansu Sekhar Misra and Ors.2 referring to the observations made by Earl of Halsbury LC in Quinn Vs. Leathem3, it was stated thus :-

"12. ...A decision is only an authority for what it actually decides. What is of the essence in a decision is its ratio and not every observation found therein nor what logically follows from the various observations made in it. On this topic this is what Earl of Halsbury L.C. said in Quinn v. Leathem, 1901 AC 495."Now before discussing the case of Allen v. Flood, (1898) AC 1 and what was decided therein, there are two observations of a general character which I wish to make, and one is to repeat what I have very often said before, that every judgment must be read as applicable to the particular facts proved, or assumed to be proved, since the generality of the expressions which may be found there are not intended to be expositions of the whole law, but governed and qualified by the particular facts of the case in which such expressions are to be found. The other is that a case is only an authority for what it actually decides. I entirely deny that it can be quoted for a proposition that may seem to follow logically from it. Such a mode of reasoning assumes that the law is necessarily a logical Code, whereas every lawyer must acknowledge that the law is not always logical at all."
31. A similar view was taken in Union of India Vs. Amrit Lal Manchandra and others4, and after referring to the decisions in London Graving Dock Co. Ltd. Vs. Horton5, Home Office Vs. Dorcet Yacht Co.6 and Herrington Vs. British Railways Board7, it was stated that observations of Court must be read in the context in which they appear and that one additional or different fact may make a world of difference :-

"15. ...Courts should not place reliance on decisions without discussing as to how the factual situation fits in with the fact situation of the decision on which reliance is placed. 
Observations of Courts are neither to be read as Euclid's theorems nor as provisions of the statute and that too taken out of their context. These observations must be read in the context in which they appear to have been stated. Judgments of Courts are not to be construed as statutes. To interpret words, phrases and provisions of a statute, it may become necessary for Judges to embark into lengthy discussions but the discussion is meant to explain and not to define. Judges interpret statutes, they do not interpret judgments. They interpret words of statutes; their words are not to be interpreted as statutes. In London Graving Pock Co. Ltd. v. Horton (1951 AC 737 at p. 761), Lord Mac Dermot observed: 
"The matter cannot, of course, be settled merely by treating the ipsissima verba of Willes, J. as though they were part of an Act of Parliament and applying the rules of interpretation appropriate thereto. This is not to detract from the great weight to be given to the language actually used by that most distinguished Judges." 
16. In Home Office v. Dorset Yacht Co.(1970 (2) All ER 294), Lord Reid said, "Lord Atkin's speech....is not to be treated as if it was a statute definition. It will require qualification in new circumstances." Megarry, J. in (1971) 1 WLR 1062 observed. 
"One must not, of course, construe even a reserved judgment of even Russell L.J. as if it were an Act of Parliament." And, in Herrington v. British Railways Board (1972 (2) WLR 537) Lord Morris said:"There is always peril in treating the words of a speech or judgment as though they are words in a legislative enactment, and it is to be remembered that judicial utterances made in the setting of the facts of a particular case." 
17. Circumstantial flexibility, one additional or different fact may make a world of difference between conclusions in two cases. Disposal of cases by blindly placing reliance on a decision is not proper. 
18. The following words of Lord Denning in the matter of applying precedents have become locus classicus:"Each case depends on its own facts and a close similarity between one case and another is not enough because even a single significant detail may alter the entire aspect, in deciding such cases, one should avid the temptation to decide cases (as said by Cordozo) by matching the colour of one case against the colour of another. To decide therefore, on which side of the line a case falls, the broad resemblance to another case is not at all decisive."x x x"Precedent should be followed only so far as it marks the path of justice, but you must cut the dead wood and trim off the side branches else you will find yourself lost in thickets and branches. My plea is to keep the path to justice clear of obstructions which could impede it."

32. The precedents which have been referred to in the judgment under appeal being on a point of law which does not arise in the facts and situation of the present case reliance placed on the said decisions to arrive at a conclusion on a question which was not at issue is therefore misplaced and the judgment of the writ court cannot be sustained for the said reason.

33. We may now refer to the provisions of the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939 to advert to the question as to whether the petitioner would be entitled to the benefit of disability pension in terms of the provisions contained therein.

34. The grant of disability pension under the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939 is admissible in a case where government servant is boarded out of government service on account of his disablement due to wound, injury or disease. In terms of Rule 3-A(1)(a), disablement shall be accepted as due to government service, provided it is certified that it was due to wound, injury or disease which is attributable to government service, or existed before or arose during government service and has been and remains aggravated thereby. Further, sub-rule (2) of Rule 3-A provides that there has to be a causal connection between disablement and Government service for attributability to be conceded.


35. The guidelines for conceding attributability of disablement of government service, in the context of persons subject to the disciplinary code of the Central Armed Police Battalions (CAPB), have included the case of an accident which occurs while proceeding from duty station to leave station and on returning to duty from leave station at public expense. An accident which occurs when a person is not strictly 'on duty' as defined under clause 4(b), may also be attributable to service, provided it involved risk which was definitely enhanced in kind or degree by the nature, conditions, obligations or incidents of his service and that the same was not a risk common to human existence in modern conditions.

36. In the case at hand, the accident having occurred on a day when the petitioner was availing leave, howsoever liberally we may attempt to construe the provisions under the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939, the petitioner would not by any stretch be held to be 'on duty' leading to a causal connection between disablement and government service for attributability to be conceded in any manner.

37. As per the petitioner's case also there is no assertion that the accident occurred while he was on his journey back home from his duty station, and the sole basis of the claim being founded on the stand that the leave being for a short period the petitioner may be considered 'on duty', the accident can in no manner be held to be attributable to Government service as per the provisions of the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939, so as to sustain a claim for disability pension in terms thereof.

38. The judgment under appeal whereby directions have been issued to compute benefits payable to the petitioner in terms of the CCS (EOP) Rules, 1939, and to make payment of the same, therefore, cannot be sustained. The judgment of the learned Single Judge is liable to be set aside and is accordingly set aside.

39. The special appeal is allowed.

40. The writ petition stands dismissed.

Order Date :- 22.04.2020
Pratima


(Biswanath Somadder,J.)

(Dr.Y.K.Srivastava,J.)


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Kerala HC | Seema Lal & Ors Vs. State of Kerala & Ors | WP(C).No.15436 OF 2017(S) | 22 Jan 2020

Dear colleagues,

Boom in medical tourism in Ayurveda, Kerala - God's own country, has seen proliferation of therapeutic services. With a large number of professional nurses, trained paramedical manpower, the State has also seen rise in Therapy Centres focussed on improving functional abilities and management of disabling conditions in children with disabilities. 

Several parents of children with disabilities having felt exploited at the hands of these institutions and against unprofessionally managed services with least care to child rights,  had raised a campaign for regulation of these institutions in 2015. It was learnt by parents that neither the department of health nor the social justice, women and child departments had any authority to regulate these therapy centres. These centres simply ran under the Shops and Establishements Act in the name of regulation. Several media stories led to ordering of a probe by the then Ernakulam district collector M Rajamanickam to order a probe by health department. The state child rights commission also passed directives to the state government seeking regulations. However not much change happened on the ground forcing the parents to move Kerala High Court through a writ petition. During the course of hearings, and as a result of several interim orders, Government of Kerala state took some actions to regulate these institutions. 

The Court has passed its judgement on 22 Jan 2020 in this matter titled 'Seema Lal & Ors Vs. State of Kerala & Ors' WP(C).No.15436 OF 2017(S).

In its judgment, the court has asked the state to issue the guidelines and ensure that all centres are registered with a fixed timeline. The Govt. has accordingly issued notifications, wherein the qualifications of all therapists are defined, and specifications have been issued while setting up therapy centres. Now, all therapy centres providing services to persons with disabilities under a regulatory mechanism need registration before a competent authority notified by government as per Section 49 of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

This is a step in right direction and must be followed up in other States as well.

Download a copy of the Judgement

Kerala High Court
Petitioners:        Seema Lal and Ors
Respondents:     State of Kerala and Ors
Case No. :          WP(C).No.15436 OF 2017(S)
Date of Order:    22 Jan 2020

Copy of the Judgement :- Download  or read below.



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

SC once again reaffirms reservation in promotion for persons with disabilities in Siddaraju Vs. Govt. of Karnataka case [Judgement Included]

Dear Colleagues

Please refer to my following earlier posts on various attempts of the Union of India to deny reservation in promotion for persons with disabilities citing Indra Sawhney Judgement,

(a) Supreme Court says Section 33 entitles reservation for employees with disabilities in promotion in Group A, B, C and D alike [01 Jul 2016]
(b) SC dismisses yet another attempt of Centre to sabotage reservation for employees with disabilities in promotion [03 Mar 2015]
(c) SC clarifies 3% reservation in appointment for disabled extends to promotions & deputations as well [10 Oct 2014]
(d) Physically Challenged Versus Logically Challenged [10 Dec 2013]

On 14 Jan 2020, a three judge Bench of Hon'ble Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Hon'ble Justice Aniruddha Bose and Hon'ble Justice V. Ramasubramanian while hearing Civil Appeal  No. 1567 OF 2017 titled Siddaraju Vs. State of Karnataka and Ors and batch of connected matters, once again reiterated its earlier stand on reservation in promotion for persons with disabilities allowing reservation in promotion for persons with disabilities in all the groups alike vis. Gp A, B, C or D.

A two judge bench of the SC had earlier clarified the same issue in matter titled Rajeev Gupta Vs. Union of India decided on 30 Jun 2016 had held that the bar against reservation in promotion in the Indra Sawhney judgment did not apply to persons with disabilities. The Court had then held that wherever posts are identified as suitable for persons with disabilities, 3% reservation must be given in direct recruitment as well as in promotion for employees with disabilities in Group A and B as it is given in Group C and D. The Govt. of India decided to however,  challenged it once again when the matter was referred to the present three judge bench to decide the question whether persons with disabilities were entitled to being granted reservation in promotion in view of the bar against reservation in promotion in the Indra Sawhney judgment along with batch of connected matters.

The lead case this time was Siddaraju vs The State Of Karnataka. In the instant case,  a disabled employee of the Karnataka Government approached the Karnataka High Court, seeking the benefit of reservation in promotion. The High Court dismissed his case in March 2016, before the SC judgment in Rajeev Kumar Gupta’s case was pronounced. Siddaraju appealed before the Supreme Court, and on 05 Jan 2017, a two judge bench presided over by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel referred the matter to a larger (i.e. three judge) bench. Justice Goel’s bench felt that the Government’s contention that reservation in promotion was constitutionally impermissible, according to the 1992 SC judgment in Indra Sawhney’s case, deserved further consideration.

The three judge bench has once again reiterated its stand that Indra Sawhney judgement only applied to reservations under Art 16(4) of Constitution of India in favour of backward classes being a vertical reservation. The reservation in favour of persons with disabilities was covered under Article 16(1) and was a horizontal reservation and did not affect the total 50% ceiling of reservation.

Below is the judgement delivered on 14-15 Jan 2020 in the lead case Siddaraju vs The State Of Karnataka:

Hon'ble Supreme Court of India
Siddaraju vs The State Of Karnataka on 14-15 January, 2020
Author: Rohinton Fali Nariman
Bench: Rohinton Fali Nariman, Aniruddha Bose, V. Ramasubramanian

Monday, September 30, 2019

Court of SCPD expresses displeasure on indifference and arrogant behaviour shown by bureaucrats in implementing RPwD Act 2016 [Judgement Included]

Dear colleagues,

The present case is a classic example of how the siloed approach on the part of the responsible officers at the helm makes it extremely difficult for a statutory authority like the Court of State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD) to perform their statutory functions.  The Hon'ble Court raises concern in its order in the present case on arrogantly irresponsive, indifference and ineffective approach  which as per the court is indeed a matter of grave concern and can have serious consequences for the persons with disabilities as an extremely proactive approach is needed to facilitate implementation of the socially beneficial Act. 

In the instant case, titled as Case No. 324/1101/2018/06/6061-6064  Dated: 24.09.2019 Suo Motu Vs. Commissioner (T&T), Delhi initiated on the complaint of a decorated Air Force veteran named Group Captain Prabal Malakar (Retd.), who is a wheelchair user and happens to be the Honorary Secretary, Multiple Sclerosis Society of India-Delhi Chapter about the problems of accessibility he faces while visiting hotels and cinema halls in the city. While most respondents took immediate action on the advise of the Hon'ble Court, the respondent  The Commissioner (Trade and Taxes), Govt. of NCT of Delhi who deals with the hotels in the city, did not respond even to several record of proceedings. 

Though the Hon'ble Court of SCPD could have easily enforced the attendance of the respondent under Section 82 of the Act or could have taken punitive provision under section 93 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, it chose to express its displeasure in its order in the following terms: 

"This reminds me of Dr. Naresh Chandra Saxena, former IAS Officer’s recent Book, “What Ails the IAS and Why It Fails to Deliver” in which he describes how the new reforms that are initiated fail to make any impact because most officers resist change and or are indifferent to the poor and the marginalised ones.  In the context of this case and a few others that I have dealt with as the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities during the last two and a half years, much of the deprivation of the rights and entitlements of persons with disabilities happens due to inadequate awareness, sensitivity, indifference to their plight and shying away from their responsibility at almost all the levels.  Its preponderance and pervasiveness at higher echelons has most detrimental effect.   

It further goes on to record,  "I am recording my unpleasant experience and the observations in this order with much reluctance and anguish and I am not relishing having to do so. In fact, I am doing so with a heavy heart and under a painful necessity respecting the call of my bounden duty. I feel that I will be failing in my duty if I let go of the lackadaisical approach, apathy and irresponsiveness for as long a period as five months by Commissioner of Excise, Entertainment and Luxury Tax in November 2018 and eight months by the Commissioner of Trade and Taxes in July 2019 only to say that they cannot and would not do anything in the matter coupled with the arrogance on the part of the public authority especially at the helm of affairs. This manifests abdication of obligation and shying away from the responsibility is a matter of serious concern. No effort should be spared to ensure that the credibility quotient of public/govt. authorities is kept at an all-time high if the RPwD Act is to be implemented in letter and spirit."

The Hon'ble Court of SCPD has passed its order as below:
(i) The respondent Department should send out at least a communication to all the Hotels and Restaurants operating in NCT of Delhi and to the President of the Federation of the Hotels and Restaurants Associations of India to ensure accessibility to their premises (built environment) by 15th June, 2022 and provide accessible public facilities and services to persons with disabilities with immediate effect as the date for the same is already over on 15th June, 2019 as mandated in the RPwD Act, 2016 under intimation to the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.  I will of course continue taking up with them as well as with the civic authorities and make appropriate recommendations.
(ii)  I reiterate my recommendation to the worthy Chief Secretary, Govt. of NCT of Delhi that a workshop should be organised urgently for officers at all levels in the NCT of Delhi/Corporations etc. and at regular intervals thereafter to make them aware of  the provisions of the RPwD Act and their obligations under it and review the status of implementation of the provisions of the Act.  Need for such workshops has been brought to my notice by various stakeholders, more particularly by the primary stakeholders based on their bitter experiences and the feedback of the participants of the 9 workshops that this court has organised on the provisions of the RPwD Act and reservation for persons with disabilities in collaboration with UTCS since July 2017.
The respondent is duty bound under Section 81 of the RPwD Act 2016 to inform the court of the action taken on the recommendations made by the court within three months.

Read the Court Judgement in the above Case No. 324/1101/2018/06/6061-6064 Dated: 24.09.2019 here (in Word file)  and here (in PDF file)