The Karnataka High Court recently castigated the State government for issuing a circular mandating that 50 percent of differently abled government employees should report for work on alternate days.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum, said that the order was issued by the Karnataka government without application of mind.
“The circular (January 5) has been issued in complete no-application of mind. We direct the state government to make proper compliance of order dated Nov 26, 2020.The court had by its previous order directed the state government to reconsider its decision of making it compulsory for government employees, in particular blind employees, to report to duty,” the Court said.
In its order, the court opined that the State government had not even considered the office memorandum dated October 2020, issued by Government of India, which provides that persons with disabilities and pregnant women shall continue to work from home until further orders.
“A copy of circular dated Jan 5, 2021 is produced. The circular considers May 17, 2020, issued by the Government of India. The state government has not even referred and therefore not considered the office memorandum dated October 2020, issued by Government of India, which provides that persons with disabilities and pregnant women shall continue to work from home until further orders.”
The Court was hearing a petition moved by Karnataka Federation of the Blind challenging a circular dated May 18, 2020, issued by the state government directing all Government Employees belonging to Group A, B, C and D to come for duty at 100% capacity.
In November 2020, the Court had directed the State government to reconsider its May 18 circular.
When the matter was taken up for hearing last week, the State government apprised the Bench that it had issued an order on January 5 directing 50 percent of the disabled government employees to report for work on alternate days.
Failing to comprehend the logic behind issuing the January 5 order, the Bench orally remarked that,
“Firstly, we don’t understand this rationale of saying that 50 percent of the blind persons should work. Either 100 percent should work, or 100 percent should not work.”
Before the hearing ended, the Bench pointed out that more than 400 COVID positive cases are reported everyday in Bengaluru and that the decision to force differently abled employees to report for work could jeopardise their safety.
“Still in the city of Bengaluru more than 400 cases are reported everyday. You (State) expect pregnant women to travel to her workplace by a BMTC bus, thus exposing herself to all the infection,” the Court said.
The Bench was further of the view that while travelling, one can take all the necessary precautions but cannot ensure that all the others do the same.
“A person who travels will take precaution, but he cannot ensure that others are wearing proper masks etc. The same is the case with a blind person if he has to travel by a BMTC bus….The circular is issued mechanically,” the Bench stated.
With these observations, the Court directed the State to reconsider its January 5 order within two weeks.
The matter will next be heard on February 1.