Reasonable Accommodation Principle Is Applicable To All Persons Suffering From Disability: SC Directs TN Power Corporation To Re-Appoint Color Blind Appellant
The Supreme Court directed the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TNGDC) to re-appoint the Appellant, who has color blindness, as Assistant Electrical Engineer with appropriate grade and suitable department.
The Court allowed the Appeal and reiterated the Appellant could be posted in any position that may not require actual field participation. The Court emphasized that the principle of reasonable accommodation is applicable to all individuals suffering from a disability.
The Bench comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Aravind Kumar observed, “It was argued that there are sufficient safeguards to ensure that a person like the appellant can be posted in a position in not merely in one department but several departments or units which may not require actual field participation. It is also emphasized that the mandate of accommodation or reasonable accommodation requires the employer to ensure that every person’s talent is utilized to the utmost, within the limitations that she or he is placed in, inadvertently. Therefore, the employer in the present case, was clearly under a duty to accommodate the appellant and continue with his employment”.
Advocate A. Velan appeared for the Appellant and Advocate T. Harish Kumar appeared for the Respondents.
The Appellant was appointed by the TNGDC and was asked to report to the Superintendent's Office. After the Appellant’s medical examination, he was informed of his night blindness. The Regional Medical Board (RMB) sent a copy of the report to the corporation which in turn dismissed the Appellant’s appointment. He appealed before the Madras High Court which allowed the Appeal and the Corporation was directed to re-appoint the Appellant. However, the Corporation also preferred an appeal which was decided in their favor. Aggrieved by the order, the Appellant approached the Supreme Court.
The Court referred to the cases of Nandkumar Narayanrao Ghodmare v State of Maharashtra [1995 (Supp 4) SCR 565], Pranay Kumar Poder v State of Tripura [2017 (2) SCR 797] and Ashutosh Kumar v Film and Television Institute of India [(2022) 16 S.C.R 1094]. The Court reiterated that color vision deficiency is neither impairment of vision and in that sense falling within the disability spectrum calling for treatment under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (Act, 2016) nor is it of such condition as to bar sufficiently qualified persons’ entitlement to be employed in an organization.
The Court also placed reliance on the case of Vikash Kumar v Union Public Service Commission [2021 (12) SCR 311] and highlighted the significance of reasonable accommodation in cases of disability. The Court reiterated that even if an individual doesn't meet specific disability percentage benchmarks, they can still be considered a person with a disability and be entitled to reasonable accommodations.
“Ravinder Kumar Dhariwal v. Union of India highlighted on the right to equality and underlined the two aspects: formal equality and substantive equality. It stated that substantive equality aims at producing equality of outcomes, and in the context of the case, observed that the “principle of reasonable accommodation is one of the means for achieving substantive equality, pursuant to which disabled individuals must be reasonably accommodated based on their individual capacities.” The court recollected Vikash Kumar v. Union Public Service Commission, which held as follows “The principle of reasonable accommodation acknowledges that if disability” should be remedied and opportunities are “to be affirmatively created for facilitating the development of the disabled. Reasonable accommodation is founded in the norm of inclusion. Exclusion results in the negation of individual dignity and worth or they can choose the route of reasonable accommodation, where each individual's dignity and worth is respected”, the Bench noted.
Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned order.
Cause Title: Mohamed Ibrahim v The Chairman & Managing Director And Ors (2023 INSC 914)