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The Rajasthan High Court recently directed the State of Rajasthan to provide a 20 percent marks concession to persons with disabilities taking the Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers (REET).
The Bench of Chief Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice VS Siradhana directed the Rajasthan Secondary Education Board to revise the results of REET 2015 and 2017 after applying the said concession to qualifying marks within a period of eight weeks. The State government was directed to review the select list for 2018 and this process has to be completed in eight weeks after the board’s revision process.
While allowing the writ petition, the Court observed,
“The Court is also cognizant of the fact that under the new Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (hereinafter to be referred as ‘the Act of 2016’), the State Government has to take necessary steps to ensure “reasonable accommodation” for persons with disabilities under Section 3(5) of the Act of 2016. “Reasonable accommodation” under Section 2(y) of the Act of 2016 means appropriate modification and adjustments, without imposing a disproportionate or undue burden in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise of rights equally with others.”
The Court also stated that visually impaired candidates ought to be provided with a scribe and that the examiner ought to provide a reasonable amount of time for such candidates to familiarise themselves with their scribes.
The petitioner had approached the High Court stating that Rajasthan’s policy to not permit any relaxation to persons with disabilities is “arbitrary and untenable”.
In March 2011, the Rajasthan government had issued an order directing that 20 percent concession be given to persons with disabilities as defined in Section 2 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
This initiative was subsequently challenged and even found its way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in its October 2016 judgment in Vikas Sankhala v. Vikas Kumar Agarwal & Ors, upheld the validity of the order.
However, in the advertisement issued by the State government pertaining to REET 2017, no such relaxation was provided for persons with disabilities. Reservation to the extent of 3 percent, as mandated by the Persons with Disabilities Rules, 2011 was, however, provided.
The State of Rajasthan reasoned before the Court that there was no general relaxation policy and that the concession was restricted to the years of 2011 and 2012. The Court, however, found that in making these submissions, the State of Rajasthan had not indicated the circumstances under which the previous policy had changed. Therefore, the Court found that the 2011 policy would continue. It held,
“The thinking reflected in its policy dated 23.03.2011, therefore, continues – in our opinion, to be the “extant” policy with respect to concession to be granted to persons with disabilities such as those represented by the petitioner organizations.”
The petitioners were represented by Senior Counsel SK Rungta with Advocates Atishay Jain and Jai Lodha. The State was represented by Advocate General MS Singhvi with Advocates Raunak Singhvi, Vinod Kumar Gupta and Ashish Sharma.