HIV positive status of person cannot be sole ground to deny promotion in employment: Allahabad High Court

A person who is otherwise physically fit cannot be denied employment or promotions solely on account of an HIV AIDS diagnosis, the Court said while granting relief to a CRPF officer.

The Allahabad High Court recently highlighted that persons diagnosed with AIDS cannot be denied employment or promotions solely on account of their HIV-positive status, if they are otherwise fit to do the work. [X v. Union of India & Ors.]

A bench of Justices Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Om Prakash Shukla stated,

“HIV/AIDS patients have a right to equal treatment everywhere and they cannot be denied job opportunity or discriminated in employment matters on the grounds of their HIV/AIDS status.”

The Court made the observation while granting relief to an employment of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) who claimed that a promotion earlier proposed to be granted to him was only on account of his HIV-positive status.

The appellant (CRPF officer) had joined the force in 1993 and was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2008. In 2013, his name was approved for a promotion to the post of Head Constable, while he was HIV-positive.

However, after an annual medical review, his medical categorization was changed and eventually, the decision to approve his name for promotion was withdrawn in 2021. This decision was challenged before the High Court.

A single-judge had earlier rejected the CRPF officer’s plea. On appeal, the present Division Bench set aside the earlier order.

Further, the judges also pointed out that it is common knowledge that as an employee takes up more senior positions, requirement for physical endurance generally decreases.

“In that sense it could be well constructed that the appellant (CRPF officer) who is presently performing and is found fit physically for the post of Constable can be always found fit for a less physically enduring duties of Head Constable,” the Court reasoned.

It also observed that the CRPF itself was sensitive and alive to the fact that HIV positive recruits should not be treated differently.

In this regard, the Court referred to standing orders that stated that HIV positive recruits would be fit for all duties anywhere, preferably were ART facilities were available, and any place except difficult and solitary locations.

Also relied upon were action plans proposed by the CRPF to promote awareness, prevention, detention, treatment and rehabilitation of HIV positive recruits.

The Court ultimately declared that the appellant was entitled to all promotion benefits extended to those who do not suffer from HIV AIDS, and allowed the appeal.

“This Court is of the view that since a person, who is otherwise fit, could not be denied employment only on the ground that he or she is HIV positive and this principle also extends to grant of promotion.” The order stated.

The appellant was represented by Advocates Sameer Kalia and Srideep Chatterjee.

Deputy Solicitor General of India Surya Bhan Pandey, assisted by Advocate Sudhanshu Chauhan, represented the respondents.

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