Accessibility February 15, 2019
Review petition challenging 50% vision, hearing disability limit for judge’s post to be filed next week
The Supreme Court bench order stipulating a 50% disability limit in hearing and vision impairment for the post of civil judge is all set to be challenged.
Next week, Advocate V Surendra Mohan plans to file a review petition seeking that the order be placed before a larger bench.
Advocate Mohan was held ineligible for the post of civil judge by the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and K M Joseph as he has a 75% vision disability. The bench was hearing his appeal against the Madras High Court‘s dismissal of his writ petition challenging the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC)‘s order that only someone with a 40-50% vision and hearing disability was eligible.
Advocate Mohan, who is all set to join the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as a Public Prosecutor soon, has made it clear that he is not interested in applying for a civil judge’s post but is fighting for a larger cause.
I challenged the Tamil Nadu government and the Commission’s decision to fix the reservation at 40-50% in the High Court because how can such a letter be binding? As per the RPWD Act 2016, any change has to be done by a proper mechanism, by setting up a committee which will conduct a research into why such an exemption is being made and after that the Disability Commissioner gets to take a call. But no such step was taken in Tamil Nadu. – Advocate V Surendra Mohan
The larger question is how the SC bench could give such an order in light of the fact that Rajasthan has a visually impaired serving civil judge in Ajmer district, Brahmananda Sharma.
“Judge Sharma is ably discharging his duties with the help of facilities being given to him like recording witness statements, an e-speak device etc., so on what basis you are giving this 40-50% reservation?”, asks Advocate Mohan. “Where is the equality? When a blind judge in Rajasthan can work, why not a judge in Tami Nadu? The laws and procedure are the same. This means the SC has no rights to give directions to the states to improve the dignity of disabled people. When you are closing the doors for your own department, then how will your order be obeyed by other departments?”
Representing Advocate Mohan will be Supreme Court lawyer Jai Dehadrai, who has successfully argued several important cases relating to accessibility at the apex court.
“I am deeply critical of the Supreme Court’s lack of reasoning in this judgement. To say a person with 50% vision loss cannot discharge his duty is one thing but when the judgment is devoid of larger reasoning, it must be reviewed by a larger bench”.
The judgement passed by the bench is truly baffling and completely at variance with the progressive stand taken in past matters, notably the directions given to make 50% of all government buildings of the national capital and state capitals fully accessible by December 2018. Given the range of technologies available, the court should be leading the way in bringing people with disabilities into the mainstream.
The sheer injustice is one that Advocate Mohan is determined to address. “I am concerned that this order will set a precedent for other states. I may not be interested in taking up the post of a judge, but I am fighting this so that no one else is suffers. If this is rejected, I will file a curative petition”.