LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday struck down provisions of the Rules of Competitive Examination 2014 which barred the Central Superior Services (CSS) qualified persons with disability from joining the Foreign Service of Pakistan (FSP).
Releasing a detailed judgment in an already decided matter, Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on Friday directed the federal government to allocate two seats to the two visually-impaired petitioners in the FSP at the earliest.
He said if no such posts were available then the concerned quarters should create two new posts to adjust the petitioners in order to uphold their fundamental rights and to redress the unconstitutional deprivation they have been facing since 2014 after being compelled to join the Information Group.
The chief justice ruled that while Rule 9(ii) of the CSS rules 2014 has been struck down, the government should formulate rules to offer all or any occupational services to disabled persons in the All Pakistan Service, after thoroughly assessing possibility of providing reasonable accommodation before the next CSS exam.
The court passed this order on a petition of Muhammad Yousaf and Faisal Majeed – visually impaired persons – who appeared in 2014 CSS examination.
Majeed secured 12th position in Pakistan and his first preference was the Pakistan Administration Services (PAS); however, he fell at serial number 11. After failing the All Pakistan Merit Quota of the PAS which includes 2 seats, he stood at serial number 9 against the PAS quota for Punjab that is 11 seats.
Yousaf secured 22nd position and the FSP was his first preference. He stood at serial number 4 but after failing the All Pakistan Merit Quota in the FSP – includes one seat – Faisal stood at serial number 3 of the FSP group against the 8 seats of FSP allocated to Punjab on open merit.
Their counsels submitted that the Rule 9(ii) said the disabled candidates – in categories of physically impaired, hearing/speech impaired and visually impaired – are allowed to compete for competitive examination against four occupational groups/services, ie, Commerce and Trade Group, Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service, Information Group, and Postal Group.
The rule said: “Disabled candidates securing a position against prescribed 7.5 per cent merit quota on all Pakistan basis may be considered for allocation on the FSP on the basis of his/her choice.”
The counsels said the petitioners were not allocated seats in the FSP – for being visually impaired –under the garb of Rule 9(ii) despite their being on merit. They requested the court to declare this rule as illegal and issue directions to the concerned to adjust them in the FSP.
Supporting the impugned rule, the deputy attorney general said a disabled candidate can only be considered for the Foreign Service if he falls within the 7.5 per cent of All Pakistan Merit Quota. Otherwise, a disabled candidate is only allowed to compete for four occupational groups, he said.
However, Justice Shah held that if the petitioners were not visually impaired and were it not for Rule 9(ii) of the CSS Rules, they would be entitled to be allocated the occupational group of their choice in open merit quota reserved for Punjab.
While a candidate with disabilities can join the FSP against the All Pakistan Merit Quota, he cannot on the basis of the same result join the quota allocated to the province of Punjab, the judge observed.
“To allow a person with disabilities one category of merit based quota, but deny the same person another category of merit quota is outright discriminatory,” the judge noted.
He noted that it was painful to observe that a person with disability was first allowed to sit the CSS exam but when he scored and was entitled to allocation in the FSP in the provincial quota, he was denied the same on the pretext that he could only avail the All Pakistan Merit Quota.
Justice Shah said neither the Constitution nor the Act permitted or supported such classification; hence Rule 9(ii) was devoid of any reasonable classification and was therefore discriminatory, offending Article 25 of the Constitution.
“Rule 9(ii) also underrates a person with disability, hurting his self-esteem and dignity, thereby offending article 14 of the Constitution. Logic and wisdom, if any, behind this exclusion totally fails me,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2017.