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Visually challenged IDIA grad, who was stopped from becoming a judge, wins big in HC

HC judges agree fully with Arepalli Naga Babu that he must be allowed to sit the judicial exam

Judge-to-be Arepalli Naga Babu wins right to become a judge
Judge-to-be Arepalli Naga Babu wins right to become a judge

Arepalli Naga Babu - a former Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA) scholar and 2016-graduate of NLU Odisha - has won the right to take a judicial services exam with additional time to compensate for his disability, after initially having been denied to even sit for the exam in the first place.

Babu, represented by advocate Vivek Reddy before the Hyderabad high court, claimed that after he applied to take the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana judicial services exam “upon receipt of the application, I was told that my application would be rejected as I am not even entitled to write the exam. It was further clarified to me that I am also not entitled for reservation”.

The acting chief justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice A Shankar Narayana held on 14 November that in accordance with central government regulations from 2013, Babu would be given no less than 20 minutes of additional “compensatory time” per hour of examination, and provided with the facilities of a scribe and a separate room.

They held that there did not appear to be any prohibition on “visually challenged candidates from participating in the selection process for appointment to posts in the AP State Judicial Service” and that Babu “cannot be denied participation int he selection process under the open category merely on account of his handicap (blindness)”.

Babu and Reddy had argued that being barred from the exam was contrary to his constitutional right to equality, and also challenged Rule 7 of the Andhra Pradesh State Judicial Service Rules 2007 against the high court and the states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which states that reservations:

in so far as they relate to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Classes, Women and one percent for Physically handicapped (orthopedically handicapped (lower portion of the body) persons shall apply to the appointments to be made by direct recruitments

He argued that the states’ judicial service should also provide a reservations for persons with visual disabilities, in violation of section 32 and 33 of the Disabilities Act, which requires at least 3% quotas for people with disabilities, of which a 1% quota should be for those with blindness or low vision.

They also argued that the Delhi high court had directed a 3% disability reservation in the 2014 Delhi judicial services examination, which was extended to the visually challenged and blind in 2015; other high courts too had similar provisions (see petition below).

The two judges held that “the question whether reservation should be provided in Judicial Services for the blind, and whether Rule 7 should be declared ultra vires the 1995 Act can only be examined after a counter-affidavit is filed by the respondents”.

In his petition he stated that:

there are several eminent judges across the world who have been discharging judicial functions even though they are visually challenged. Such as Justice Zak Mohammed Yacoob who served as a Judge on the South African Constitutional Court for 15 years and Judge David S Tatel of the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, often referred to as the second most important court in the United States of America.

The said judges had been discharging their duties with the help of assistive technology and Braille computers. The advancement in technology has helped in uplifting the handicapped and in meeting the current needs. I state that the experience of the said Judges have been documented on the IDIA website/blog and more than amply demonstrates that being blind is not an impediment for discharging the functions of Judicial Magistrate.

Babu has been practising in the Andhra Pradesh high court since July 2016, in the office of an advocate. According to a profile on the IDIA website, from when he had joined NLU Orissa:

Arepalli Naga Babu is a visually challenged student from Machlipatnam. He hails from a family of five with an income of 36,000 rupees per annum. He did his schooling till the tenth standard from his village. Despite being fully visually impaired, Naga Babu secured 80% in the State board exams.

Naga Babu believes that IDIA had provided him with very good opportunities and training facilities. He thanks all IDIA team members for providing him with constant support and motivation. Naga Babu’s long term goal is to become an I.A.S officer and lead his community to a brighter future. He believes that law school will provide him with the right environment and optimum opportunities to achieve that goal.

Naga Babu secured admission at NLU Odisha with an All India PWD Rank of 4. He has also secured a seat at RMNLU Lucknow in the first list of CLAT counseling. Finally, he took admission in NLU Odisha.

Naga Babu vs Hyderabad HC: Writ petition against visually impaired judge stopped from becoming judge

Judgment in Arepalli Naga Babu vs HC of Hyderabad

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