Denying defence assistance to hearing-impaired employees is a human rights violation: HC

Observing that an employee with 98% hearing-impairment cannot be treated like a normal employee that general rules apply to during departmental inquiries, the High Court of Karnataka has set aside a public sector bank’s decision to demote the employee based on the outcome of an inquiry, conducted without allowing him to take the help of a defence assistant.

The court termed the bank’s action a ‘human rights violation’ while directing the bank to restore his position prior to his demotion, and pay full retirement benefit with consequent promotions and pay hikes as he had retired from the service during the pendency of his petition before the High Court.

Justice M. Nagaprasanna delivered the verdict while allowing a petition, filed by A.K. Siddalingappa, who retired from the post of in-charge manager of stationary pool of SyndicateBank, questioning the 2014 decision of the bank to demote him based on findings of the inquiry.

“…any employer is morally and legally bound to treat such employee who has a disability of any kind differently as they are differently-abled persons. This right of such hearing-impaired employees not only flows from various international covenants but is a right recognized even on our constitutional canvas,” the court said, while observing that the bank treated the petitioner like a normal employing denying him the benefit of persons with disabilities though the bank was fully aware that he had a 98% hearing impairment.

“…when a normal employee facing a departmental inquiry becomes tongue-tied, the status of the petitioner being disabled to the tune of 98% would, without a shadow of a doubt, become incapacitated even to submit any defence,” the court observed on petitioner’s plight.

Referring to a judgement of Kerala High Court, which has brought deafness and dumbness within the purview of mental infirmity, Justice Nagaprasanna said that penalty imposed on petition is unsustainable as he remained defenceless for want of a proper defence assistance.

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