Ranjit Kumar Rajak v. State Bank of India (2009) 5 Bom CR 227

Ranjit Kumar Rajak v. State Bank of India (2009) 5 Bom CR 227

Case Summary

The Petitioner in this case underwent a renal transplant in 2004. Subsequently, he applied to the post of a probationary officer in the State Bank of India. After a medical test, the bank rejected him on the ground that he was found medically unfit for the post. The petitioner approached the Bombay High Court by a writ petition claiming that despite medical reports that indicate his fitness to perform his duties, he was denied being considered for employment. The bank rejected him as the rules required the bank to reimburse medical expenses incurred by the officers of the bank and since the medical condition of the Petitioner required regular medical check-ups, the costs would be very high and could not be borne by the bank. The main question, according to the Court, was “whether a person who is fully qualified for a post because of his past or present medical condition which otherwise did not interfere with his fitness to dispense the duties of his post, be denied employment because of the financial burden that would be cast on the employer.”

In an extremely significant ruling, a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court articulated and recognised for the first time the concept of “reasonable accommodation at the workplace” in India. The court relied on the CRPD to decide the duty of the employer in providing reasonable accommodation and the limits on such a duty. The court recognised that India had signed and ratified the CRPD and that Article 27 of the Convention recognises the right of persons with disability to be “accepted in the labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.”

The court also discussed the definition of “reasonable accommodation” under Article 2 as “a necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

In interpreting “reasonable accommodation” and “undue burden” the court relied on the CRPD and recognised the importance of India’s international obligations with respect to rights of disabled persons by stating that:

“The law is now well settled that though the United Nations Convention may not have been enacted into the Municipal Law, as long as the convention is not in conflict with the Municipal Law and can be read into Article 2 thus making it enforceable. Therefore, in the absence of any conflict it is possible to read the test of reasonable accommodation in employment contracts.”

The Court further held:

“A duty is, therefore, cast on the State to provide reasonable accommodation in the matter of employment subject to the burden of hardship test being satisfied. In the absence of a statutory definition of reasonable accommodation, the reasonable accommodation as set out in the protocol in the first instance can be considered. It will have to have a nexus with the financial burden on the institution and/or undertaking which will have to bear the burden and further the extent to which reasonable accommodation can be provided for.”

The court incorporated the right to reasonable accommodation by declaring that “Reasonable accommodation, if read into Article 21, based on the U.N Protocol, would not be in conflict with municipal law. It would give added life and dimension to the ever expanding concept of life and its true enjoyment.” Following this, the court concluded that the bank has a duty to provide reasonable accommodation to the petitioner subject to any undue burden. The court observed that no evidence was presented on how the financial burden would actually be a caused to the bank in providing reasonable accommodation to the petitioner even if it meant meeting his medical expenses. Consequently, the court allowed the petition and directed that the Petitioner be offered appointment and allowed to join the post.

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