Temporary disability not a disqualification for reservation under PWD Act: Delhi HC

New Delhi, Dec 1 (PTI) The Delhi High Court has ruled that temporary disability is not a disqualification to avail reservation under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RoPwD) Act, 2016 and quashed the cancellation of admission granted to a candidate suffering from a visual impairment which was likely to improve.
Justice Prateek Jalan, while dealing with the petition by a candidate seeking admission to Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, said that the RoPwD Act is social legislation for the benefit of persons with disability (PwD) and does not ex facie distinguish between temporary and permanent disabilities.
The judge said that the decision of the admission authority was an unduly restrictive interpretation which is not consistent with the object of the legislation.
It may be noted that in the RoPwD Act, the definition of ‘PwDs’, ‘PwBDs’ (person with benchmark disability) and of specified disability do not ex facie distinguish between temporary and permanent disabilities. The definition of PwD, to the extent that it incorporates the necessity of long-term impairment, itself subsumes this requirement, said the court in its order passed on November 29.
In the present case, the petitioner, who suffered from ‘keratoconus’ — a visual impairment, had applied for admission in the PwD category based on a disability certificate which recorded that he has a 40% temporary disability concerning both eyes.
The certificate stated the petitioner’s condition was likely to improve and consequently his candidature was ultimately rejected.
Defending its decision, the varsity contended that Clause 19.2 of guidelines for assessing the extent of specified disability under the Act requires a disability to be permanent to be certified and since the petitioner’s condition was likely to improve, he was not entitled to the benefit of reservation.
The court observed that the petitioner was undisputedly a PwBD and even the schedule of the Act, while enumerating specified disabilities, also does not make a distinction between permanent and temporary impairment in the context of visual impairment .
The general rule under Clause 19.2 is that a disability would be certified if it is permanent. However, temporary certificates are expressly contemplated if the condition is likely to worsen, and also for specific purposes, such as for pursuing education. This case falls within the second category, the court said.
The benefits of the Act should be conferred upon those the legislature intended to be benefitted, but the Act does not make the distinction which the respondents have read into the legislative scheme, it added.
“For the aforesaid reasons, the writ petition succeeds, and the impugned communication of the respondents dated November 9, 2021, is quashed. The respondents are directed to take necessary consequential steps forthwith,” the court ordered.