The High Court of Punjab and Haryana has made it clear that an establishment can’t dispense with the services of an employee or reduce his rank in case he acquires disability while in job.
The ruling came as Justice Anupinder Singh Grewal rapped the Govt of Punjab for being “insensitive and indifferent to the plight of a challenged employee” before directing his reinstatement.
Justice Grewal said that “It is manifest that the respondents are being insensitive and indifferent to the plight of a challenged employee, which is anathema to a welfare state and contrary to the objective of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act”.
Referring to Section 47(1) of the Act, Justice Grewal stated that in the event an employee was found to be unsuitable for the post he was holding, he was required to be shifted to some other post with the same pay scale and service benefits. If it wasn’t possible to adjust the employee against any post, he could be kept on a supernumerary post until a suitable post was available or he attained the age of superannuation, whichever was earlier.
The matter was brought to the HC’s notice after Rawel Singh filed a plea against the state and other respondents. Appearing before Justice Grewal’s Bench through video-conferencing, his lawyer Manu K Bhandari contended that the petitioner was 75% physically challenged, but the respondents were arbitrarily not allowing him to continue till the age of 60 in violation of the Act.
The state counsel, on the other hand, submitted the increase in the retirement age from 58 to 60 for disabled employees was not unconditional. It was subject to the condition that they should be mentally and physically fit to discharge the duties of the post. In the opinion of the board of doctors, the petitioner could not carry out his office work as a junior assistant. Referring to the object of the Act, Justice Grewal asserted that it was to provide a congenial work environment, keeping in view the disability of the employee. Merely because the employee couldn’t carry out work as a junior assistant, it could not be taken that he would be unfit to discharge any other job.
Justice Grewal ruled that “The petitioner shall be taken back in service forthwith in the same pay scale and adjusted at a suitable post whereat he may work online from home in view of the Covid-19 pandemic”.