The following appeared in "Times of India", Mumbai Edition on May 09, 2009, page no. 03.
Keep Smiling ... HemantAgarwal
If ailment’s curable, you can’t be denied job: HC
Mumbai: “A person who suffers from an ailment that medical treatment can cure, and is otherwise fit to discharge the duties and responsibilities of the post to which he applies for, cannot be denied the right to lead a productive life, to maintain himself and his family with dignity, and strive towards excellence,’’ said the Bombay high court on Friday. In a landmark ruling, the HC overturned a decision taken by the State Bank of India (SBI) in Mumbai and directed it to employ a man who, in 2004, had undergone a kidney transplant.
Ranjit Rajak, a 32-year-old from Ghaziabad, UP, had taken SBI to court last year for having been refused a job on the grounds that he was “medically unfit’’. Though the bank had first found him suitable as a probation officer after interviewing him in January 2007, six months later, after his medical test, he was declared “ineligible’’ because of his kidney transplant.
Rajak said it was not his first rejection; even the IDBI, another public sector bank, had denied him a job despite Apollo Hospital certifying him as “fit enough to perform tasks appropriate to the job’’ in January 2008.
Ironically, the SBI, too, relied on a separate report from the same hospital that found him “unfit’’ as he would “require continuous care’’. The bank also relied on the 1979 guidelines that called for “special medical assessment while recruiting, to rule out kidney ailments, congenital heart disease, diabetes and rheumatic heart’’.
Mihir Desai, Rajak’s lawyer, challenged the SBI decision saying it was not only discriminatory and violated the fundamental right to life and equality, but was also against a citizen’s right to public sector employment.
A division bench of Justices Ferdino Rebello and R S Mohite expressed concern at the
discriminatory policy adopted by the public sector undertaking. The HC relied on several judgments from the US and other courts as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol, which India had signed in 2007.
The HC said “the state as an employer does not have unfettered freedom as to who he chooses as his employee. If a person, who at one point suffered an ailment, is denied a job in the public sector, his chances in the private sector would be nil.
“Do we, as a state, condemn all such citizens to be dependent on their families? Do we strip them off their dignity to live a full life? The theory of reasonable accommodation flows from the right to a life of dignity,’’ said the court. The judges dismissed the bank’s stand as “unreasonable’’, that it would have to bear the employee’s medical cost and that his work capability was irrelevant due to his medical condition. The court directed the bank to appoint Rajak in 60 days.