The government has exempted certain establishments from the purview of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 section which provides for reservation in employment for persons with benchmark disabilities, according to gazette notifications.
In the first of these notifications issued on Wednesday, the government exempted all categories of posts under the Indian Police Service; all categories of posts under the Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli Police Service; and all categories of posts under the Indian Railway Protection Force Service.
In the second notification, the exemption from the section has to be given to all sectors and categories of posts of combatant personnel.
"In exercise of the powers conferred by the proviso to sub-section (1) of section 20 and the second proviso to sub-section (1) of section 34 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the Central Government, in consultation with the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, having regard to the nature and type of work, hereby exempts all categories of posts of combatant personnel of Central Armed Police Forces, namely, Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Sashastra Seema Bal and Assam Rifles from the provisions of the said sections," the second notification said.
According to section 34 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016, every appropriate government shall appoint in every government establishment, not less than four per cent of the total number of vacancies in the cadre strength in each group of posts meant to be filled with persons with benchmark disabilities of which, one per cent each shall be reserved for persons with benchmark disabilities.
Section 20 of the Act provides for non-discrimination in employment, reasonable accommodation and appropriate barrier free and conducive environment to employees with disability. Meanwhile, activists have opposed the government's decision.
Arman Ali, executive director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) said exempting section 34 of the Act does "grave injustice" to persons with disabilities.
"The jobs under the police department are not only limited to field jobs, but also contain sub-departments like forensics, cyber, IT cell, among others, which can accommodate persons with disabilities in the jobs identified for them.
“The reservation which is provided under Section 34 is only against jobs which are identified under Section 33 and therefore, the issued notification is irrational as persons with disabilities are already deemed fit to be appointed on those identified posts," he said.
Ali further added that even persons with disabilities like acid attack victims and leprosy cured are capable of carrying out law and order duties and responsibilities under the police.
“As such, the blanket exemption on all categories of police force and IPS is unjust and arbitrary in nature,” he rued.
The activist also said exemption from section 20 will have negative implications on persons with disabilities already employed under the said combatant services.
For instance, if a personnel employed in either of the said combatant services acquires a disability during their service period, he will not be able to exercise the rights to reasonable accommodation, non-discrimination, promotion if the combatant services are exempted from the provisions under section 20 of the RPwD Act, 2016, he said.
The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) said the government has "misutilised" the proviso under section 34 which grants such exemption.
The intent of this proviso is not to grant a blanket exemption from employing disabled persons, but to see that combatant roles or such duties are not assigned to them and in any case, recruitment is only against identified posts, it said.
NPRD general secretary Muralidharan said the development is militating against the spirit and intent of the proviso.
“This is even more shocking given the fact that the Delhi Police had in October 2019 advertised for head constable (ministerial) giving reservations for persons with disabilities,” he said.
"Surprisingly, in another notification issued the same day (August 18), pertaining to Central Armed Police Forces, exemption is confined only to ‘all categories of posts of combatant personnel’," he said.
Calling the first notification "unacceptable", the NPRD called for its withdrawal.
"Exemptions should be granted only in cases of ‘combatant roles’ in keeping with the intent and spirit of the proviso under Section 34 of the RPD Act. It is regrettable that a department that is supposed to safeguard the rights of the disabled and empower them, is doing just the opposite," Muralidharan added.