Treatment Of Unequals As Equals Ignoring Their Special Needs Violates Article 14 - SC Directs Restoration Of Seniority Of Handicapped
The Supreme Court has observed that the treatment of unequals as equals, ignoring their special needs violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
The Bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice JK Maheshwari made this observation while adjudicating upon an appeal challenging the Order of the Division Bench affirming the Order passed by the Single Bench whereby petition challenging downgradation in seniority of a disabled candidate was dismissed.
The Appellant, a handicapped candidate of the "Other Backword Classes" category was selected as Senior Teacher under the Education Department of the Government of Rajasthan, through a direct competitive examination.
The Appellant was appointed in the category of handicapped candidates. The place where the Appellant was posted was located at a distance of about 550 kms away from his place of residence in Alwar district.
The Appellant made a representation that he be transferred to his home district Alwar, considering his physical disability. Following this, the appellant was transferred as Senior Teacher of the Government Secondary School, Goonti, Alwar.
However, the Appellant argued that at no point of time was he informed that transfer to his home district would entail the consequence of downgradation in his seniority.
In 2016, the Appellant was promoted to the post of Junior Lecturer and thereafter, in 2017, the temporary eligibility list of qualified teachers for promotion to the post of Head Master was published on the website of the Department. The name of the Appellant did not feature in the aforesaid list.
The Appellant made a representation to the Director of Secondary Education, Rajasthan to restore his seniority however, no action was taken to restore his seniority.
The Single Bench dismissed the writ petition filed by the appellant in this regard which came to be affirmed by the Division Bench of the High Court.
Being aggrieved, the appellant approached the Apex Court.
Advocate Rahul Shyam Bhandari appeared for the Appellant whereas Advocate Sandeep Jumar Jha appeared for the Respondent-State.
The Court held that the reduction of seniority of the Appellant in the State List was totally arbitrary, unreasonable and discriminatory.
The Court noted that one of the disadvantages faced by the physically disabled persons is the inability to move freely and easily, hence the State issued a notification/circular dated July 20, 2000 for posting disabled persons to places of their choice, to the extent feasible.
The Court observed that the object of this benefit to the physically disabled is to, inter alia, enable the physically disabled to be posted at a place where assistance may readily be available.
The Court pointed out that the benefit which has been given to the disabled through the Circular/Government Order cannot be taken away by subjecting the exercise of the right to avail of the benefit on such terms and conditions, as would render the benefit otiose.
The Court held that the High Court should have been more sensitive and empathetic to the plight of a physically disabled.
"The High Court erred in law in overlooking the difference between physically disabled persons impaired in their movement and normal able-bodied persons. The High Court failed to appreciate that treatment of unequals as equals ignoring their special needs violates Article 14 of the Constitution.", the Court observed.
Accordingly, the Court set aside the Judgments and Orders of the Division and Single bench. The Court quashed the Order whereby the seniority of the appellant was downgraded and directed restoration of the seniority of the Appellant to the original position after considering the service rendered by him.
Cause title- Net Ram Yadav v. The State of Rajasthan & Ors.