Quotas apart: Differently abled people eligible for open merit jobs

Published: December 22, 2016

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has ruled that differently abled people are eligible to be recruited on open merit in addition to the quota reserved for disabled persons.

Through a detailed judgement on a petition of a visually impaired teacher on Wednesday, LHC Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah declared unconstitutional the Punjab government’s recruitment policy for disabled people and directed it to reframe the policy.

Hafiz Junaid Mahmood had challenged the recruitment policy after being denied the job of a senior elementary school educator (SESE) on open merit. He pleaded the definition of disabled in the recruitment policy was against the definition as given in Section 2(c) of the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, 1981. Mahmood contended that he was entitled for consideration on open merit at par with other candidates and in addition to that a differently abled person enjoyed a 3% special quota under Section 10 of the ordinance.

Lawyers of provincial and local governments argued it was not possible for a blind teacher to ‘control the class or maintain discipline’, terming the petitioner ineligible to apply for the post. They argued a blind individual was not eligible to apply for the post of teacher because he could not even write on a blackboard.

The lawyers believed the petitioner’s right to seek employment had to be proportionately balanced with the rights of the children to get proper education, and the right to education was the dominant right.

They also challenged the maintainability of the petition, claiming courts could not interfere in policy matters.

The chief justice rejected this argument, however, and observed that right to life, dignity and equality mandated that state and its organs make serious endeavours to provide reasonable accommodation to differently abled people so they could become useful and productive members of the society.

The chief justice ruled the 3% quota under the ordinance was an additional benefit and did not restrict a person with disabilities to apply for the general quota. To restrict them to a limited quota amounts to depriving equal accessibility and opportunities to them and offends Article 25 of the Constitution, he added.

Also striking down Section 4D of the recruitment policy, Justice Mansoor directed the government to consider the candidacy of the petitioner against the teaching post on open merit or against the additional 3% quota while giving one month to the government for complying with the order.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2016.

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