In news– Recently, High Court of Karnataka in its verdict on wearing Hijab has rejected an argument in support of permitting Muslim girls wearing head-scarves that was based on the principle of ‘reasonable accommodation’.
About reasonable accommodation-
- It 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.
- The general principle is that reasonable accommodation should be provided, unless some undue hardship is caused by such accommodation.
- Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) defines reasonable accommodation as “necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
- The International Labour Organization (ILO), in its recommendation on HIV/AIDS and the world of work, defines it as “any modification or adjustment to a job or to the workplace that is reasonably practicable and enables a person living with HIV or AIDS to have access to, or participate or advance in, employment”.
- In 2016, the ILO came out with a practical guide on promoting diversity and inclusion through workplace adjustments and four categories of workers were chosen for the guide:
- Workers with disabilities.
- Workers living with HIV and AIDS.
- Pregnant workers and those with family responsibilities, and
- Workers who hold a particular religion or belief.
- A modified working environment, shortened or staggered working hours, additional support from supervisory staff and reduced work commitments are ways in which accommodation can be made.
- Suitable changes in recruitment processes, allowing scribes during written tests or sign language interpreters during interviews will also be a form of accommodation.
- 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”.
- The definition of ‘discrimination’ in Section 2(h) includes ‘denial of reasonable accommodation’.
- In Jeeja Ghosh and Another v. Union of India and Others (2016), the Supreme Court, while awarding a compensation of Rs.10 lakh to a passenger with cerebral palsy who was evicted from a flight after boarding, said: “Equality not only implies preventing discrimination …, but goes beyond in remedying discrimination against groups suffering systematic discrimination in society.”
- The Supreme Court elaborated on the concept in Vikash Kumar v. UPSC (2021). This was a case in which the court allowed the use of a scribe in the Union Public Service Commission examination for a candidate with dysgraphia, or writer’s cramp.
- 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. It also said failure to provide reasonable accommodation amounts to discrimination.
- In the recent Karnataka verdict on wearing the hijab, the High Court did not accept the argument based on a South African decision that reasonable accommodation can be made for allowing minor variations to the uniform to accommodate personal religious belief.