People with mental illness can't be denied equal opportunity, HC for judgeship to bipolar person

New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) People suffering from mental illness cannot be denied equal opportunity to have a dignified life, the Delhi High Court Friday held while directing the authorities to declare as selected a person, suffering from bipolar disorder, to the Delhi Judicial Service without any further delay.

A bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Sanjeev Narula set aside the May 21, 2019 notice/result published by the Delhi High Court Registrar General rejecting the candidature of a person for Delhi Judicial Services-2018 under the category of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) on account of his mental disability not being found to be permanent in nature.

The bench allowed the man's petition challenging his rejection and directed the authorities to declare the petitioner as selected to the Delhi Judicial Service without any further delay since he is the only qualified candidate in the 'mental illness' category.

“Upon his appointment, the petitioner would retain his notional seniority along with his other batchmates and he would be deemed to have joined his post along with his other batchmates, though he would not be entitled to any back wages. It goes without saying that the respondent (high court administration) shall issue necessary orders regarding the petitioner's Induction training for judicial officers,” the bench said, in its 50-page judgement.  The bench said from the counter affidavit filed by the high court administration, it appeared the reason for rejection of the man's candidature was not that his mental illness is not of permanent nature, but because the authorities are of the opinion that the medical condition of Bipolar Affective Disorder (BPAD) makes him incapable of rendering service as a judicial officer.  “Once the posts are advertised and seats are reserved for, inter alia, persons with mental illness, it is not open to the respondent to deny the petitioner reservation under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, merely on the basis of an opinion or belief entertained by it that the petitioner would not be able to discharge his duties as a Judicial Officer due to his mental illness. This is a call that the Parliament has taken.

“The Law provides reservation, inter alia, to persons with the enlisted benchmark disabilities which include 'autism, intellectual disability, specific learning disability and mental illness',” it said.

The bench said it appeared that a person suffering from such a mental illness can lead a normal life, while being under treatment, though he may face ups and downs from time to time.

“It appears that the Parliament granted reservation, inter alia, to PwD – who suffer from mental illness (which does not include retardation), so that such persons get an opportunity to lead a normal life with encouragement and dignity. Merely because they may need medication and treatment throughout their lives, or may suffer setbacks from time to time, cannot be a reason to deny them equal opportunity to assimilate in society, make their contribution and have a life of dignity,” the bench said.  It added that such persons have a fully developed mind like any normal human being and “they may suffer from substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception or memory that may grossly impair judgment, behaviour and capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, but with medication and treatment such manifestations can be kept at bay”.

The mere apprehension of the authorities that this candidate may not be able to handle the responsibility and stress which a judicial officer faces, cannot be a reason to declare him medically unfit or to say that he is not entitled to claim reservation, the bench said.

It further said there is no medical opinion placed on record to come to the conclusion that a person, who is suffering from BPAD and is under remission, would not be able to discharge his responsibilities as a judicial officer.  It said the intent and object of the RPwD Act is to protect and preserve the rights of disabled persons and employment is an essential aspect of utmost importance.

The law has to be read liberally, keeping in mind that it is a beneficial and social welfare legislation which has to be given effect to in order to protect the rights of the PwD and not to defeat their rights, it said.

In November 2018, the high court administration had issued notice inviting online applications from eligible candidates for filling up 147 vacancies for DJS 2018. Out of 147 vacancies, 6 seats were reserved for PwD.

Out of these 6 seats, 2 seats were reserved for persons having autism, intellectual disability, specific learning disability, mental illness and multiple disabilities as mentioned under the RPwD Act including deaf-blindness The petitioner candidate said he was called for an interview by the Interview Board, comprising judges of the high court and other members and later when final results were published, his candidature was rejected as his disability was not found to be permanent as per the disability certificate submitted by him.

The disability certificate issued by the Department of Psychiatry, AIIMS, certified the petitioner of having the disability, that is, mental illness – BPAD to the extent of 45 per cent and stated that his condition was 'currently in remission' and his condition was 'likely to improve'. PTI SKV HMP RKS RKS RKS