Why central services cannot be exempted from reservation for disabled

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

Mains level : Paper 2- Reservation for disabled

Context

In a case that the SC is currently hearing, the petitioner has challenged a notification issued by the Department of Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities (Department).

About the notification

  • The impugned notification exempts all categories of posts in the Indian Police Service, the Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli Police Service, as well as the Indian Railway Protection Force Service from the mandated 4 per cent reservation for persons with disabilities under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 [RPwD Act].

Issues with the notification

1] Against combat and non-combat classification

  • On the same day as the issuing of the impugned notification, the Department also issued another notification exempting from the purview of reservation under the RPwD Act posts only of “combatant” nature in the paramilitary police.
  • This classification between combat and non-combat posts was premised on a clear recognition of the fact that persons with disabilities are capable of occupying non-combat posts in the central forces.
  • The Department has offered no justification as to why this classification would not hold good as regards the services covered in the impugned notification.

2] Against the identification of posts suitable for reservation for the disabled

  • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had identified a range of ministerial/civilian posts as being suitable for reservation for the disabled.
  • The impugned notification goes against this identification exercise, by virtue of its blanket character.
  • Further, on November 22, 2021, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs released Draft Accessibility Standards/Guidelines for built infrastructure under its purview (police stations, prisons and disaster mitigation centres) and services associated with them.
  • These Draft Standards state that the police staff on civil duty could be persons with disabilities.

3] Exercise of power

  • As per the RPwD Act, the grant of any exemption has to be preceded by consultation with the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.
  • However, the office of the chief commissioner has been lying vacant for many years, with the secretary in the Department officiating in that role.

Conclusion

This case presents the SC with the opportunity to rule that the disabled are not a monolithic entity. Every disabled person is different, and it is unfair to paint all disabled people with the same broad brush, based on a stereotypical understanding of what they can do.

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