For organisations working with persons with disabilities, Tuesday was a red-letter day.

The Supreme Court, delivering a judgement, said persons with disabilities must be appointed for all categories of jobs in State and Central government-run establishments, public sector undertakings and government companies, if they qualify.

The court also directed State governments “to compute the number of vacancies available in all establishments and identify the posts for disabled persons within a period of three months from today and implement the same without default.”

Until now, reservations for persons with disabilities were made only in groups C and D, which involve physical labour. Even if they cleared qualifying examinations, disabled persons could not aspire to higher administrative positions within an organisation on the grounds that their disability would not allow them to perform their job.

Tuesday’s judgment pertains to a petition filed by the National Federation of the Blind in the Delhi High Court in 2006.

The federation alleged continued discrimination against persons with disabilities in filling up vacancies in government departments.

The government, for its part, said there was an office memorandum issued by the department of personnel and training, which provides for a system to ensure proper implementation of the provisions of the Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

The Delhi High Court had asked the government to modify the memorandum, but discrimination continued. The federation appealed to the Supreme Court to look into the matter. R. Prabhakaran, who represented the Tamil Nadu Handicapped Federation Charitable Trust in the Supreme Court, said: “From the beginning, the government has had a lackadaisical approach towards the disabled. They were given jobs out of pity, though time and again the disabled have proved that they can do a job well. We placed the argument that in developed countries and China too, even private organisations employ the disabled and their potential is utilised. Instead of applying the law, the government has invested in 1,000 ways to prevent the disabled from performing.”

Nethrodaya founder and visually impaired person C. Govindakrishnan and the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Disabled and Caregivers have termed the court’s decision a landmark judgment, which assures them of three per cent reservation in government jobs.

Mr. Govindakrishnan said now it was up to persons with disabilities to become skilled, prove their abilities, and qualify for jobs instead of seeking concessions.

Court said disabled persons must be appointed for all categories of jobs in State, Central govt.-run establishments