Delhi HC asks Dept of Science & Technology to relax age limit for candidate with disabilities for research award application


(Dr Akshansh Vs Ministry of Science & Technology & Ors) The Petitioner is a disabled person with cerebral palsy (orthopaedic-quadriplegic) who filed this urgent petition after being denied registration for an online application/nomination for INSPIRE Faculty Award, January, 2018 (Session-I), the last date of registration for which was February 28, 2018. The petitioner is currently working as a research associate in the School of Computational & Integrative Sciences, JNU, New Delhi. He was a JNU student from 2008 to 2015 and was awarded his PhD in September, 2015. The first respondent in the case was the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, who, through an advertisement for the “Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE)” program, which was launched in 2008 and is aimed at attracting talent for the study of science and careers in the field of research. The advertisement was for the ‘INSPIRE Faculty Scheme’ and offered contractual research awards to young achievers and opportunities for independent research. The age limit for the award was 32 as on January 1, 2018, and 35 years for SC/ST candidates. The petition noted that the petitioner has a luminous academic record along with outstanding achievements, which made him a sufficiently qualified candidate for the award. HRLN filed a petition on the behalf of the petitioner on the grounds he was denied a chance to register for the award since no age relaxation was provided to him. Despite there being a relaxation of three years provided to SC/ST candidates, there was none for persons with disability, which is a non-implementation of Section 32(2) of The Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016. The Act clearly reserves, under section 32 (1), that all government institutions of higher education and other higher education institutions receiving government aid shall reserve not less than 5% seats for persons with benchmark disabilities. It further states in section 32(2) that persons with benchmark disabilities shall be given an upper age relaxation of 5 years for admission in such institutions. Therefore, the petition sought from the court a direction for the Ministry of Science & Technology to comply with the Section 32 (1) & (2) of the Act and to give the persons with benchmark disabilities reservations and age relaxation. It also sought a direction to the Department of Science and Technology to permit the petitioner to complete his online registration process for the award application with a provision of age relaxation in the online form or permit him to use a separate offline registration application. In the interim order received on February 26, 2018, the court directed the respondents to consider the petitioner’s candidature by ignoring the fact that he is overage, as per the scheme. However, the court added, “it is made clear that the consideration of the petitioner’s application would be subject to the outcome of the present petition.”