A. v. Union of India

Writ Petition No. 1623 of 2000
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A, the Petitioner, was a Master Chief Engine Room Artificer-II Class in the Indian Navy. In 1997, he was found to be living with HIV. He was put in low medical category but allowed to remain in service and complete 15 years of service, which made him eligible for pension and other benefits. In 1999, his commanding officer recommended him for re-engagement for three years. The Petitioner was, however, informed that due to his HIV status he would not be re-engaged.

The Petitioner filed this petition in the Bombay High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India (original writ jurisdiction of High Courts). The Petitioner challenged a policy articulated in a letter by the Respondent and Navy Order 26/93, which stated that people living with HIV were to be put in a low medical category and not granted re-engagement. The Petitioner claimed this policy violated Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution of India.

On the issue of termination of employment and re-engagement, the Court noted that the Petitioner’s HIV status was discovered in 1997 after which he was allowed to serve his full term. It therefore held that the termination was not solely on account of the Petitioner’s HIV status. The Court further held that there was no legal right to seek re-engagement and the Respondent had full discretion in decisions regarding re-engagement.

The Court held that neither the letter nor the Navy order violated the fundamental rights to equality and life in Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The Court dismissed the petition and held that there was no perverse motive underlying Respondent’s decision not to re-engage the Petitioner’s services.

“There is discretion for Respondents to reengage, but there is no legal right to seek reengagement.” Para 19.

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