The Supreme court recently passed a ruling directing that differently-abled person, or persons with disabilities should be extended the same benefits and relaxations as that has been extended to SCs and STs with regard to the reservation.
The state provides for affirmative action or reservation in the field of education and employment to a certain community or a certain section of the society because, in the eyes of the government, that community or section of the society is under-privileged and under-represented. And hence, in order to provide for their social and economic advancement, the state provides for such reservations in education and employment.
Such reservation is provided to say for communities like Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes on the account of their social and educational backwardness. This is a result of their social disability which is caused by centuries of oppression and marginalization by the upper castes.
Similarly, a reservation has been provided to persons with disability as well on the grounds of their physical and mental disability. This disability has resulted in very low literacy rate and low employment amongst them. So it has been clearly recognized that persons with disabilities, form an underprivileged and under-represented class and they should be provided with reservation, irrespective of their social status.
In 2012, this argument was upheld by the Delhi High Court as well. And it had concluded that persons with disabilities should be treated as a socially backward class. It is this ruling of the Delhi High Court that the Supreme Court has referred to bypassing this landmark judgement which has extended the same benefits and relaxations given to SCs and STs to disabled for equal treatment.
Here, some might argue that how the Supreme Court can equate the physical and mental disability with social disability. According to the 2001 census data, illiteracy among persons with disabilities was at an alarming 51% and this educational and social backwardness can be seen amongst all persons with disabilities irrespective of their social status.
However, it is to be seen to what extent this ruling of the Supreme Court along with the Rights of persons with disabilities Act of 2016, will have a transformative effect on persons with disabilities leading to their social and economic advancement.