The question of whether an employee can be terminated while on disability is a common concern, especially if there’s a chance the claimant’s impairment or illness may not be permanent but likely to persist into the indefinite future. Unfortunately, the answer can be complicated and sometimes difficult to understand for both disability claimants and employers.The Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear that an establishment cannot dispense with the services of an employee or reduce his rank in case he acquires disability while in job.
The ruling came as Justice Anupinder Singh Grewal rapped the Punjab Government for being “insensitive and indifferent to the plight of a challenged employee” before directing his reinstatement. “It is manifest that the respondents are being insensitive and indifferent to the plight of a challenged employee, which is anathema to a welfare state and contrary to the objective of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act,” Justice Grewal asserted. Section 47(1) of the Act has been referred, Justice Grewal asserted that in the event an employee was found to be unsuitable for the post he was holding, he was required to be shifted to some other post with the same pay scale and service benefits. If it was not possible to adjust the employee against any post, he could be kept on a supernumerary post until a suitable post was available or he attained the age of superannuation, whichever was earlier. The matter was brought to the High Court’s notice after Rawel Singh filed a petition against the state and other respondents. Appearing before Justice Grewal’s Bench through video-conferencing, his counsel Manu K Bhandari contended that the petitioner was 75 per cent physically challenged, but the respondents were arbitrarily not allowing him to continue till the age of 60 in violation of the Act. There has also been an increase in the retirement age from 58 to 60 for the disabled employees, it is submitted by the state counsel. It is important that any person should be mentally or physically fit to discharge the duties of the post. In the opinion of the board of doctors, the petitioner could not carry out his office work as a junior assistant. Referring to the object of the Act, Justice Grewal asserted that it was to provide congenial work environment, keeping in view the disability of the employee. Merely because the employee could not carry out work as a junior assistant, it could not be taken that he would be unfit to discharge any other job.
It was ruled that – A petitioner shall be taken back with the same pay scale and the post and must be given work at home, looking at circumstances amidst COVID-19.