‘We cannot turn a blind eye to this’
High Court allows 24-year-old V Prithviraj Aithal to become the first visually challenged candidate in last 10 years to write exams to become a judge
The Karnataka High Court has allowed a 75% blind candidate to write judicial exam with the help of a scribe and came down hard on a government notification that bars them from doing so.
Twenty-four-year-old V Prithviraj Aithal had applied for the exams as a general merit candidate rather than under the physically-challenged quota as a 10-year-old government notification does not allow visually-challenged persons to become judges.
In his order, Justice Raghvendra S Chauhan said the judiciary should be a lighthouse for the country and lead the path in providing equal opportunities for persons with physical disadvantages.
Prithviraj becomes the first visually challenged candidate in 10 years to write exams to become a judge. The High Court on Thursday allowed the help of a scribe to Prithviraj to write the preliminary examination for the post of civil judges. The candidate was also allowed an additional 30 minutes for the exams.
The state government in a 2005 notification for judicial recruitment had not included visually-challenged candidates in reservation for the physically disadvantaged and had even reduced it from 3 per cent to 1 per cent.
As per the notification, only candidates with orthopedic impairments are allowed to avail the reservation.
Prithviraj had therefore applied in the general merit category and sought court direction to write the exam scheduled on July 25.
While hearing the case argued by advocate NP Amrutesh, Justice Chauhan said the SC has ruled that blind persons cannot be debarred from holding the post of a judicial officer.
The court cited the Rajasthan HC which had allowed a fully blind person to apply for a judicial posting.
“I have not seen a candidate brilliant than him,” the judge said and disregarded the government’s objection about the ability of the person to run a court saying, “how I run my court is my concern. Blind persons are more brilliant than others.”
The court also struck down the government advocate’s contention that Prithviraj would require a scribe to write his exam.
The court gave the example of writer Ved Mehta on how brilliant visually-challenged people can be.
“Read any of his books. Is this 16th Century India? You seem to be talking about 16th Century India. This is archaic attitude,” the court said.
Justice Chauhan said that there could be questions of how a blind person as judge decides the demure of witnesses. “We discussed this in the Rajasthan HC. We allowed a fully blind person. In this case, it is 75% impaired. We need a lot of introspection and we cannot go beyond the SC. The notification should be thrown out of the window. We have to empower the differently abled. We cannot be hypocrites. The government which talks about equality cannot take it away.”
Considering that Prithviraj is writing an exam to become a judicial officer, the court said, “Judiciary has to be the most sensitive to this community. Pardon me using this, but we cannot turn a blind eye. There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.”
ALMOST LOST OPPORTUNITY
Resuming the hearing of the case post lunch, the court noted that the notification itself was not challenged by the petition and it would not be possible to allow Prithviraj’s prayer.
The court said that the legal validity of the notification should be challenged first.
“You should have gone for the jugular vein of the government. It (petition) is only grappling. You should have come armed to the teeth. How can you make exemptions on the wings of sympathy,” the court said.
Advocate Amrutesh then pointed out that Prithviraj had already applied for the exams. It is an online process and in the category of physically challenged there is no option for visually challenged candidates. Therefore Prithviraj had applied under the general category and is now only seeking the help of a scribe to write the exam. The court said that he could then worry about the appointment later and can write the exams.