The Karnataka High Court has overturned a direction of the Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore Centre, to withhold payment of House Rent Allowance (HRA) to Prof. Dr. Kaushik Majumdar.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum emphasized the legal obligation of institutes to provide suitable working conditions for specially-abled individuals, citing disability rights legislations and international conventions.

"The duty of an Institute to provide better working conditions to specially disabled persons is not just a moral imperative but also a legal obligation under various disability rights and legislations and international conventions," the Court held.

The Court directed the Institute to expedite the construction of new quarters for Prof. Majumdar, ensuring accessibility and accommodation in compliance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. It also reminded the Institute of its duty to proactively ensure the inclusion and well-being of all employees with disabilities.

"Respondent No.2 is directed to expedite the process of building new quarters for the petitioner ensuring that it meets all accessibility and accommodation requirements specified under the Act, 2016....Respondent-Institute is hereby reminded of its obligation under the Act, 2016 and its urge to take proactive measures to ensure the inclusion and well being of all employees with disabilities," the Court said in its Order.

Prof. Majumdar, who has 85% orthopedic disability due to polio, had applied for a faculty position at ISI in 2006. Despite expressing preferences for the Kolkata campus, he was assigned to the Bangalore Centre. Upon his arrival, he was accommodated in a single-room guest house, which lacked essential amenities for someone with disabilities.

The Court noted that Prof. Majumdar, a leading expert in Human Electroencephalogram (EEG) and Electrocorticogram (ECoG) signal processing, relies on an electric chair for mobility. Despite his stature and physical challenges, the Institute failed to provide suitable accommodation, leading to prolonged difficulties for Prof. Majumdar.

"Despite assurance spanning over 19 years, the Institute has failed to provide proper quarters, leaving the petitioner to reside in one room guest house. This Court has taken cognizance of the photographs produced by the Petitioner, and the same depicts a very sorry state of affairs. This Court is really perturbed and disturbed by the conduct of the Institute in the manner in which the petitioner is treated," the Court said.

Expressing concern over the Institute's treatment of Prof. Majumdar, the Court held that he is entitled to reasonable accommodation under the law and that the withholding of HRA further exacerbated his difficulties, disregarding his needs and rights as a person with a disability. "Upon careful examination of the present facts and in consideration of the Act, 2016, it is evident that petitioner is entitled to reasonable accommodation by the employer. The provision of one room guest house to an Professor of a Premier Institute coupled with respondent No.2-Institute’s prolonged delay in providing proper quarters, constitutes a failure to fulfill its obligation under the law. The cessation of house rent allowance vide impugned direction further compounds the petitioner’s difficulties disregarding petitioner’s needs and rights as a person with a disability," it said.

Consequently, the Court allowed the Writ Petition with directions to the Institute.

Cause Title: Prof Dr. Kaushik Majumdar v. Indian Statistical Institute & Ors.


Petitioner: Advocate B C Seetha Rama Rao

Respondent: Advocate Madhukar Deshpande

Click here to read/download the Order