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SC: Disciplinary Action Against Mentally Ill Employees At Work Is Discrimination

In a progressive move, the Supreme Court has said that any kind of disciplinary action against mentally troubled or ill employees at work is an act of indirect discrimination. The bench headed by Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath observed that any person suffering from a disability is protected under the Right of Persons with Disability (RPwD) Act if his/her disability is used as an excuse to discriminate against him/her. It is important to note that the RPwD shields people suffering from mental disorders as well as people suffering from other kinds of disabilities.

The court came to this conclusion when they were hearing an appeal against an assistant commandant Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer. He was undergoing disciplinary action after he had used foul language, had appeared on television without prior departmental approvals, tried to cause an accident and physically assaulted a deputy commandant in 2010. However, during the proceedings, the officer defended himself saying that he was facing mental health issues after being posted in areas where anti-insurgency operations had taken place between 2003 and 2013.

The CRPF countered his plea and said in their defence that there are a number of officers who are sent to areas with insurgency and they didn’t develop any kind of mental health issues. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court reasoned out that a person or an employee with any kind of mental illness would not be able to perform in a similar fashion when compared with an able-bodied employee. Therefore, any kind of disciplinary action against mentally ill employees at work would be considered an act of injustice and discrimination against them. Also, the SC said that the social discrimination against mentally ill people in the society is still rampant and it doesn’t encourage the scenario to take a legal discrimination turn.

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