Karnataka High Court Rules in Favor of Disabled Professor, Orders Indian Statistical Institute to Provide Suitable Accommodation

Karnataka HC rules in Prof. Majumdar vs. Indian Statistical Institute, orders accommodation provision citing Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.

In a recent decision, the Karnataka High Court ruled in favor of Prof. Dr. Kaushik Majumdar against the Indian Statistical Institute Bangalore Centre. The court overturned a directive from the institute that aimed to withhold payment of House Rent Allowance (HRA) to the disabled professor because he was staying in the institute's guest house.

Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum, presiding over a single-judge bench, upheld Prof. Majumdar's petition. The judge emphasized the institute's obligation to provide suitable working conditions for specially abled individuals, citing moral and legal imperatives under various disability rights laws and international conventions.

Quoting the judge's remarks, it was stated, "The duty of an Institute to provide better working conditions to specially disabled persons is not just a moral imperative but also a legal obligation under various disability rights and legislations and international conventions."

The court directed the institute to expedite the construction of new quarters for Prof. Majumdar, ensuring compliance with accessibility and accommodation requirements specified in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. Additionally, the institute was reminded of its responsibility under the Act to proactively ensure the inclusion and well-being of all employees with disabilities.

Prof. Majumdar, who has been diagnosed with polio and has an 85% orthopedic disability, had applied for a faculty position at ISI in 2006. Despite expressing a preference for the Kolkata campus, he was directed to join the Bangalore Centre. Before joining, he communicated his physical condition and accommodation needs to the Head of the Bangalore Centre, which was acknowledged.

Upon arrival, Prof. Majumdar was accommodated in a single-room guest house, which he expected to be temporary. However, this arrangement persisted since 2009 without efforts from the institute to provide suitable accommodation. The guest house lacked essential amenities for someone with disabilities, such as dining facilities, forcing Prof. Majumdar to cook his own meals.

Quoting the court, it was noted that "Such conditions not only compromise the petitioner's dignity but also pose serious health and safety risks."

Despite being a leading expert in Human Electroencephalogram (EEG) and Electrocorticogram (ECoG) signal processing in India, Prof. Majumdar faced challenges due to the lack of suitable accommodation, which the institute denied without clear reasons, according to the court.

Expressing concern over the institute's treatment of Prof. Majumdar, the bench remarked, "This Court is really perturbed and disturbed by the conduct of the Institute in the manner in which the petitioner is treated."

After careful examination of the facts and considering the relevant laws, the court concluded that Prof. Majumdar was entitled to reasonable accommodation by the employer. The failure of the institute to provide proper quarters, coupled with the cessation of HRA, was deemed a violation of Prof. Majumdar's rights and needs as a person with a disability.

The court allowed the petition, granting relief to Prof. Majumdar.