Principle of Reasonable Accommodation – UPSC GS2

  • In Hijab controversy, Muslim girls petitioned in court to allow wearing head-scarves base on the Principle of Reasonable Accommodation.
  • Court has rejected their demand and ruled in favour of the State’s circular that required students in educational institutions should only wear prescribed uniforms.
What is the Principle of ‘Reasonable Accommodation’?
  • ‘Reasonable accommodation’ is a principle that promotes equality, enables the grant of positive rights and prevents discrimination based on disability, health condition or personal belief.
  • Its use is primarily in the disability rights sector.
  • It captures the positive obligation of the State and private parties to provide additional support to persons with disabilities to facilitate their full and effective participation in society.
  • For a person with disability, the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to equality (Article 14), the six freedoms (Article 19) and the right to life (Article 21) will ring hollow if they are not given this additional support that helps make these rights real and meaningful for them.
  • Article 2 of UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD): It is necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations:
  • Modifying work sites.
  • Providing readers and interpreters
  • Flexi-place
  • Assistive devices
  • Modifying work schedules
  • Flexi-time
What is the legal position on this in India?
  • In India, the Rights of People with Disabilities Act, 2016, defines ‘reasonable accommodation’ as “necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments, without imposing a disproportionate or undue burden in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise of rights equally with others”.
  • Jeeja Ghosh and Another v. Union of India and Others (2016): The Supreme Court, held that Equality not only implies preventing discrimination but goes beyond in remedying discrimination against groups suffering systematic discrimination in society.
  • Vikash Kumar v. UPSC (2021): The court ruled that benchmark disability, that is a specified disability to the extent of 40%, is related only to special reservation for the disabled in employment, but it need not be a restriction for other kinds of accommodation.
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