24 January 2023

By Rehan Piracha


The Supreme Court has reaffirmed that the reserved job quotas for minorities and persons with disabilities (PWDs) are their constitutional right and cannot be reversed or made available to other citizens.

A three-member bench, comprising  Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, and Justice Shahid Waheed, gave the ruling while turning down a citizen’s petition in which he challenged the seats reserved for minorities and persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the Combined Competitive Examination, 2015 (“ CCE”) conducted by the Punjab Public Service Commission.

Mubarik Ali Babar, the petitioner, also sought allocation of the seats reserved against the special quota for minorities and persons with disabilities (PWDs)  to general candidates if the quota remains unfilled in a particular year.

In the judgment, the bench observed that the right of dignity stood at the top among fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
“Therefore, the minimum right to dignity of the minorities and PWDs is that they ought to be considered equally with the rest of the majority of Muslims and the majority of persons with fuller abilities,” the judges wrote in their order.
Under the Constitution, there is no distinction and therefore, these fundamental rights are fully available to the minorities and PWDs in the country as they are available to all other citizens of Pakistan, the judges added.
The bench noted that a review of the constitutional scheme unfolded that the Constitution uplifts PWDs, and gave them additional protection so that every effort (reasonable accommodation) is made to bring differently-abled persons at par with fully-abled persons.
Similarly, the bench said, the Consitution ‘mandates that minorities are equal citizens of Pakistan and must be protected from all kinds and forms of discrimination’.
PWDs facing apartheid in Pakistan: SC
The Supreme Court noted that persons with disabilities in the country were experiencing an apartheid system in the country.

“The marginalization and discrimination experienced  by  PWDs is arguably considered to be similar to the apartheid system in terms of segregation and discrimination based on a particular characteristic, leading to limited  access to education,  employment, and other opportunities, as well as social and economic marginalization, thereby, marginalizing individuals and communities.”

People with disabilities are segregated from community life and face discrimination due to pervasive attitudinal and systemic barriers that the law, policy, and practice frameworks have failed to remove, such as inaccessible or unequal facilities of housing, transport, and education, segregated settings, barriers in accessing justice and legal systems, and employment and health discrimination, the SC bench added.
The bench noted that lower education levels coupled with discrimination, stigma, negative attitudes, inaccessible transport and workplaces, and limited availability of accommodations for PWDs, played a significant role in limiting their job opportunities.
Minorities no lesser citizens under Consitution: SC

Referring to the use of the word ‘minorities’ in the Constitution, the Supreme Court said the word minorities only signified the numerical strength of non-Muslims who were entitled all fundamental rights as enjoyed by other citizens in the country. “The word “minorities” on the other hand, signifies merely a statistical number, representing a class of people in the country who are Non-Muslims and in no manner does it imply that they are lesser citizens or in any manner less entitled to the fundamental rights under the Constitution.”

The SC bench agreed with the recommendations given in the report titled “Unequal Citizens, Ending Systemic Discrimination against Minorities” published in May 2022,  by the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR). The court expressed concern over government department advertisements recruiting religious minorities exclusively for sanitary work. The bench also cited speech of Quaid-e-Azam’s speech reaffirming safeguarding of the rights of all minorities and that all citizens of Pakistan are equal and had equal rights irrespective of their religion, colour, caste or creed.

The bench said the petitioner’s request to open unfilled special job quotas seat to general candidates was not permissible as it would offend constitutional values, fundamental rights, and the principles of policy. “This quota is their constitutional right and cannot be reversed or made available to other citizens,” reads the judgment.
Bar on using the word ‘disabled’ for PWDs
The bench also ordered that the PPSC  should ensure that the word “disabled” was not used in its advertisements and it should use ‘persons with disabilities’ or ‘persons with different abilities’  in official work including official notifications. The court upheld the the judgment of Lahore High Court, dismissing the petition for opening up special quota jobs to general candidates



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