Fighting for a fair deal

One need not wade through the legalese to distil the spirit of this section, which is to enable persons with disabilities to remain employed, thus ensuring their sustenance and restoring their dignity and self-worth. From the vantage point of a paraplegic soldier, all the fizz of this act went flat with the issuance of a statutory notification (SN) via the gazette of 13 April 2002. By exercising the powers conferred by the proviso to section 47, the Union government exempted, prospectively, all categories of posts of combatants of the armed forces from the protective shield of section 47. Since fighting fettle is a requisite, this exclusion does look reasonable. But only on the surface.

While the differently abled civilian employee is looked after, the paraplegic soldier in the prime of life would be wheeled off to fend for himself and his family on peanuts packaged as a disability pension. The government consigns the paraplegic soldier to a far lower quality of life vis--vis the differently abled civilian employee. The SN therefore discriminates and does a grave wrong to those who risk life and limb in the line of duty. The irony is that section 47 is unfurled in the act under the rubric of "non-discrimination". It would be a surprise if the SN was not found to fall afoul of Article 14 (right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law) of the Constitution.

If the government doesn't rescind the SN to restore parity, then equality demands the enhancement of disability pension to match full emoluments . If not, one expects our lawmakers to restore equal rights among various differently abled employees when the new legislation to attune the disability act to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities comes up in Parliament. But that could mean a long wait.

... contd.

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