IRA SINGHAL SUCCESS STORY
IRA Singhal who made history by becoming the first differently abled person to top civil services examinations, was earlier denied by the government to join as IRS (Customs and Central Excise), as the service (IRS-C and CE) is not identified “for both the arms affected persons”.
Read more about Ms Singhal’s fight for justice in Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and how she took up the challenge of lifting 10 kg of weight in one hand in a medical re-examination in New Delhi’s Safdarjang hospital and got her appointment letter. The story goes back to her selection in 2010 civil services examinations where she was ranked 815, and in the process she was to join in Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise). According to her medical certificate (No. 44493 dated 26.04.2011 issued by Safdarjung Hospital), she has 62% locomotor disability. “Her both the arms and the spine are affected”, said the report. And that led the DoPT to object to her appointment as IRS (C and CE) is not identified “for both the arms affected persons” (The service is identified for OL or One leg affected (right or left), OA or One arm affected and HH or Hearing Handicapped).
But Ms Singhal approached the CAT in 2012. In fact, the physical requirements for her service are as follows: S (work performed by sitting on bench or chair), ST (work performed by standing), W (work performed by walking), BN (work performed by bending), L (work performed by lifting), SE (work performed by seeing), MF (work performed by manipulation by fingers), RW (work performed by reading and writing), H (work performed by hearing/speaking) and C (Communication). According to her medical report Ms Singhal met all the physical requirements except work performed by lifting (L).
There was no clarity however how much load an IRS officer should be able to lift with one hand. As the percentage of locomotor disability on account of impairment in two arms as well as the spine is only 62%, she was asked to ascertain as to how much load she could lift. Also, the importance of lifting a heavy weight by an IRS officer also came under question as the officer is always accompanied by other staff during raids or inspectors when there may be need to lift certain load.
Also, it was felt that there is also a need “to distinguish between the disability due to amputation or severe impairment in the limbs and mild impairment due to polio, injury, weakness of muscles etc. as far as the functional capacity of a person is concerned”.
She was re-examined by the chairman of Central Standing Medical Board, Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi. And she could fulfill the physical requirement by lifting 10 kg of weight in one hand.
And on January 24, 2013, the Central Board of Excise and Customs that comes under the revenue department, ministry of finance clarified that it had no objection to allocating Ms Singhal of IRS (C and CE) cadre. The department of revenue along with the DoPT had earlier objected to her appointment.
Finally, the CAT in an order dated February 25, 2014 allowed her to be appointed as an IRS (C and CE) keeping in view of the “actual physical condition of the applicant”. Here is the excerpt of the judgement: “In view of the judgment of Honble High Court of Karnataka at Bangalore in M. Dinesan Vs. State Bank of India, Bhubaneswar, Orissa (ibid) and the view taken by Ministry of Finance as also by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, we are of the view that the applicant to whose allocation to IRS (C and CE) the two Ministries have no serious objection and who stood sufficiently high in merit (Rank 815) should not be deprived of consideration for allocation to the service for which she is actually considered suitable by the Cadre Controlling Authority. We have taken such view only in view of the actual physical condition of the applicant, i.e. it is not so that her both arms are disabled due to amputation or severe impairment in the limbs but her impairment is only on account of weakness of muscles only.”
“Irony is that on medical and physical grounds, I am not eligible to be an IRS, a clerk or even a sweeper, but the rules do allow me to become an IAS,” Singhal says.
No doubt, Ms Singhal is a challenger and she is by far “more abled” than most human beings.