CHENNAI: Can diabetes and a blood sugar level of 140mg/dL be cited as reasons to deny employment to a person?
No, the Madras high court has said, adding, “There cannot be a blanket ban on giving public employment to persons with diabetes. Medical experts opine that diabetes is a condition where the body fails to utilise the ingested glucose properly. Further, there is a strong school of thought that a diabetic is not suffering from a disease, but only a disorder that could be managed.”
Upholding a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) order rejecting the railway administration’s claim that a diabetic might not be able to discharge his/her works efficiently, a bench of Justice R Banumathi and Justice T S Sivagnanam said, “It is unfair on the part of the railway administration to reject a candidature on a single blood test.”
Manikandan, a commercial clerk in Southern Railway, died in harness in 2010. His wife Arockiammal applied to the railways for a job on compassionate grounds. In 2011, the railway administration informed that she was unfit on medical grounds, as her blood sugar level was around 140mg/dL.
She then approached the CAT for remedy. The railways resisted her application, stating that compassionate appointment cannot be a matter of right and that she had been found medically unfit for the job. The tribunal, however, allowed her plea, and directed the railways to appoint her under compassionate grounds.
The present appeal in the high court was filed by the railway administration.
Dismissing the appeal, the division bench said that, as of a 2011 survey, 62.4million (as against 1.2 billion Indian population) are diabetic. It is slated to increase in 2030 to 110.1 million. “Diabetes usually has no impact on an individual’s ability to do a particular job, and in most cases the employer may not even know that his employee has diabetes. As the impact of diabetes and its management varies among individuals, there cannot be a blanket ban on giving public employment to persons with diabetes.
The judges said they were conscious of the legal position that there is no vested right to secure appointment on compassionate grounds, but said that they had jurisdiction to step in when they find that there has not been an objective consideration or arbitrary approach by the authorities. Pointing out that Arockiammal was otherwise eligible for the employment, the judge said, “to deny employment to her on speculation that what might occur in future is unreasonable.”
The judges then directed the railway administration to comply with the CAT direction on giving employment to Arockiammal within three months.
Medical experts point out that people with diabetes should not be discriminated based on their condition as it is treatable and does not interfere with the person’s routine life. “Diabetes is a very common disorder and no one can deny a job for a diabetic on these grounds. Diabetics are healthy people who have a treatable condition and it does not affect their work in any way,” said diabetologist Dr A Ramachandran, Chairman, Dr A Ramachandran’s Diabetes Hospitals.