The Supreme Court, in a significant decision, confirmed that persons suffering from disabilities are also socially backward and entitled to the same benefits of relaxation as Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe candidates in public employment and education.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice Rohinton Nariman upheld a 2012 judgment of the Delhi High Court in Anamol Bhandari (minor) through his father/Natural Guardian v. Delhi Technological University in a significant decision.
“In Anamol Bhandari, 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 Caste/ Scheduled Tribe candidates,” the Supreme Court held in a judgment pronounced on July 8.
The decision by the Justice Nariman Bench came on a petition filed by Aryan Raj, a special needs person represented by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, and advocate Rajan Mani, against the Government College of Arts, Chandigarh.
The college denied Mr. Raj relaxation in minimum qualifying marks in the Painting and Applied Art course.
The college insisted that disabled persons 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 noted 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 apex court allowed Mr. Raj to apply afresh for the current year. “Further, it is clear that aptitude test pass mark, so far as disabled are concerned, is now 35%,” the court declared.
Justice Nariman’s Bench also highlighted the Delhi High Court’s words in the Anmol Bhandari case that new academic courses should be crafted to specifically cater to the needs of intellectually disabled persons.
“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,” the Supreme Court quoted from the High Court judgment.
Advocate Rajan Mani, who was also the High Court’s amicus curiae in the Anamol Bhandari case besides appearing for Mr. Raj in the Supreme Court, said the endorsement of the High Court judgment by the apex court was a huge fillip to disabled persons’ rights.
“Hitherto, candidates with disabilities were often not able to get the benefit of reservation in education and employment because of not meeting the general standards. Now, public sector employers and colleges / universities will have to allow the same relaxations to them as to SC / ST candidates,” Mr. Mani said.