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Court raps Maharashtra for failure to fill disabled job quota

The Bombay High Court orders the freezing of recruitment for Maharashtra state government jobs until the backlog of vacant posts earmarked for the disabled is filled

Furious with the Maharashtra government for not filling up to 23% of vacancies in posts reserved for the disabled in government jobs, the Bombay High Court has ordered a freeze on recruitments in the general category until the disabled quota is filled. The court reprimanded the state for its "shocking" failure to recruit enough physically disabled persons for the reserved jobs, despite being given two extensions.

The high court has given the state three months to recruit people to fill the 3% of seats reserved for the disabled in government jobs, saying the government's claims of having made serious efforts to clear the backlog appeared baseless.

The court ordered the freezing of recruitments in the general category in 27 departments until the backlog of 2,388 vacant posts (as of June 30, 2006) reserved for disabled people was filled. The ban, however, covers only posts where disabled persons can be employed.

Hearing two public interest litigations (PILs) seeking the implementation of the Persons With Disability Act 1995, a division bench of Justice R M Lodha and Justice S A Bobde directed the state disability commissioner and the state chief secretary to ensure that its orders were complied with.

The petitions, one by the Pune-based Indian Law Society's Law College legal aid cell and the other by the National Federation of the Blind contended that the government was not filling up the 3% of posts in government jobs reserved for disabled persons. The government had failed to ensure that posts reserved for disabled people were filled. Nearly 23% of the posts remain vacant, the petitioners contend.

Under the Act, at least 3% of posts in government departments are to be reserved for disabled persons, 1% for the visually-challenged, 1% for those with hearing disabilities, and 1% for people with locomotor disabilities or cerebral palsy.

The judges were especially critical of the fact that despite two deadlines set by the high court -- December 2005 and then July 31, 2006 -- the state had failed to comply.

On February 14, 2006, the court had asked the state to fill all vacancies in these posts by July 31. When it failed to do so, in its last hearing on the issue on August 9, the court issued a show cause notice to Maharashtra Chief Secretary D K Sankaran asking why contempt proceedings should not be issued against him for not complying with the court's February order.

"It is a matter of great concern that for 10 years a piece of social legislation to ensure the welfare of the disabled has just been put in cold storage," Justice Lodha said. The state told the court that of the 8,468 posts, only 2,388 were vacant, a figure contested by the petitioner's lawyers. Therefore, the court has asked the government to allow the petitioner access to records of all 27 departments to ascertain the vacancies. Disability Commissioner R K Gaikwad has been asked to file an affidavit within two weeks on the exact number of vacancies.

The state has also been asked to appoint five nominees on the State Coordination Committee, which oversees the implementation of the Act.

The judges said that aside from non-compliance of the court's orders, even the chief secretary's directives to the 27 department heads had not been obeyed. "Have you suspended even two officials for disobeying the order? Then your action could be seen as bona fide," they said.

The Maharashtra government has acted swiftly to this dressing-down by the high court. Urban Development Principal Secretary J M Phatak told the media that all departments had been ordered to clear the backlog within 45 days. Advertisements seeking applications for jobs in the reserved category would be published on September 15; the written examination and interviews have been scheduled between October 15 and 31.

Source: Hindustan Times, September 8, 2006
DNA, September 8, 2006
The Indian Express, September 8, 2006