Striking a blow for blind and visually impaired citizens across Tamil Nadu and India, the Madras High Court on Friday refused to allow a school to sack a teacher who had lost her eyesight, and ruled that she be allowed to continue using the help of a companion to discharge her teaching duties until her retirement.
The teacher, Malliga Janet, a PG Assistant in the government-aided Lutheran Mission Central Higher Secondary School at Sirkazhi in Nagapattinam district, had moved the court after the school said it could not allow her to continue teaching students after she became blind during her service.
The court pointed out that section 47 of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act protected the service of an employee who acquired disability during his or her service.
In her plea, Malliga Janet said she joined the school as B.T.Assistant in June 1990. She was promoted as PG Assistant (Tamil) in February 1995. She lost her vision totally in August last year. She was permitted by the school to get the assistance of a member of Parent Teacher Association as her companion due to visual disability and to perform her duties to the school's satisfaction. The students' result in the Tamil examination was 96 per cent. There was no complaint against her.
In April this year, the institution issued a letter asking her to produce a fitness certificate from the District Medical Board regarding her blindness. Otherwise, it would not allow her to continue in service. The certificate said she suffered 100 per cent visual disability. Based on this, the school was of the view that the petitioner was not entitled to continue as a teacher for Plus Two students.
The teacher submitted an explanation and also made representations. As no order was passed, she filed the present petition. She prayed the court to direct the authorities to consider her representations and pass orders permitting her to have a PTA member as her companion to discharge her duties.
Justice D.Hariparanthaman said the school's view that the petitioner could not discharge her duties was not correct. The disability had not disqualified her. The medical certificate did not say she was not suitable for the teaching job. A G.O of July 21, 2009 of the Social Welfare Department permitted appointment of blind persons as secondary grade teachers. Also, law protected the service of an employee who acquired disability during his or her service. In the present case, the petitioner became blind after nearly 20 years of service. She had been permitted to handle classes after she became blind. She also produced the best results. She was awarded cash prize for her performance.
Mr.Justice Hariparanthaman said in the students' interest, she should be permitted to have the continued assistance of a companion which she had during the last academic year at her cost. Moreover, the teacher had only two or three years of service left for retirement. He directed the authorities to permit the petitioner to have the assistance of her choice at her cost till her superannuation and handle Plus One and Plus Two classes as PG Assistant (Tamil.) The school should claim salary for the petitioner from July this year. The authorities should sanction the salary for the teacher.