BLAST and others v Bangladesh and others [‘PSC Disability Discrimination’ Case]

Writ Petition No. 2932 of 2010

High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Shapan Chowkidar, a lawyer with visual disabilities who had been denied the opportunity for admission to examinations for the Public Service Commission (PSC), along with BLAST, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Action on Disability and Development (ADD) filed a writ petition challenging Schedule III of the Bangladesh Civil Service (Age, Qualifications and Examinations for Direct Recruitment) Rules, 1982 (‘the BCS Rules’) which bars persons with disabilities from being eligible for employment in public service. Shapan Chowkidar had taken part in competitive examinations at all stages of his academic life with aid of a scribe and/or by use of documents in Braille. He obtained his Secondary School Certificate (S.S.C) with star marks in 1999, and his Higher Secondary Certificate (H.S.C) with a First Division in 2001. He was admitted to the Department of Law, University of Dhaka in 2002, where he obtained his LL.B. (Hons) and LL.M. degrees in 2008 and 2009 respectively. In 2009 he was enrolled as an Advocate with the Bar Council after qualifying in both the written and viva voce examinations. He submitted his application for appearing for the PSC examinations pursuant to a notice published in a national daily, but the Public Service Commission refused to issue an admit card to him on purported grounds of his non-eligibility under existing law.

Arguments: The petitioners argued that such institutionalized discrimination violates the fundamental rights of all persons with disabilities to equality under law, particularly the rights to equal opportunities to public employment and to freedom of profession as guaranteed under Articles 27 and 29 read with Articles 15 and 19 (2), and that the failure of the government or the concerned authorities to make any accommodation for employment of persons with disabilities amounts to non-compliance with their statutory obligations under the Disability Welfare Act 2001 as well as their international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Order: The High Court issued a Rule Nisi on 08.06.2010 to show cause as to why certain provisions of the BCS Rules should not be declared to be unconstitutional to the extent that they are inconsistent with the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities to equality, equality of opportunity and the right to a profession. It also directed the respondents to show cause as to why they should not be directed to apply their discretionary powers and to perform their duties as prescribed by law to identify cadre posts within the Bangladesh Civil Service as appropriate for citizens with disabilities as well as to ensure the hiring of citizens with disabilities for these posts. Earlier on 25.04.2010, the Court directed the President and Secretary of the National Disability Welfare Committee to submit a report within thirty days on the steps taken to date implement their obligations under Section 6(2) and Schedule ‘Cha’ of the Disability Welfare Act, 2001.

Laws Cited:
Constitution, Articles 27, 29, 15 and 19 (2); Bangladesh Civil Service (Age, Qualification and Examination for Direct Recruitment) Rules, 1982; Disability Welfare Act, 2001

International Instrument Cited:
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Pending hearing

Writ Petition  

Court Order

Application - directions

Court Order- Directions


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