Ashutosh Shukla

Rashmi ThakurRashmi Thakur
BHOPAL/JABALPUR: The Madhya Pradesh high court will hold an exam for civil judge recruitment in July for just one candidate — an extraordinary step for an extraordinary person.

Jabalpur lawyer Rashmi Thakur, who is 75% blind since birth, scored 85% in her prelims despite being barred from using a writer (scrubber, in legal terms). She fell short of the cut-off by 5% and moved high court, which felt that her score in such trying circumstances was worth more than the cut-off. Since the main exam was over, a division bench of Chief Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V K Shukla ordered another exam, just for her.

Asked how she managed to give her online prelims, she told TOI: “I can write only if I keep the paper an inch away from my eyes. That is the limit of my vision. That’s how I gave my papers in school and colleges. That’s how I gave my online exam.”

After getting her law degree in 2013, she immediately started practicing in court. “But I always wanted to be a judge. In 2016, when I read about Brahmanand Sharma of Rajasthan, a visually-impaired person like me making it to judicial services in his state, I saw a ray of hope,” said Rashmi.

Her first hurdle was a rule that only those suffering from orthopaedic disability would get benefit of reservation. She wasn’t allowed a scrubber, either. Undaunted, she moved HC to include visually-impaired on the list of disabled persons but with no success. In 2017, when 94 vacancies of civil judges were advertised by the high court, she applied as a general candidate. And, this bold decision eventually paid off.

She fell short of the qualifying score by 5% but filed a writ petition in HC, with the help of senior advocate Surendra Verma. A division bench of Chief Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V K Shukla was impressed by her fortitude and accepted her argument. The bench not only allowed her to appear in the main exam but also ordered inclusion of visually-impaired persons on the list of disabled and provide them reservation.

“Justice Gupta was very appreciative of my efforts. Taking the online exam without a scrubber was difficult. I have given online exams in the past as well but every time I was allowed to sit with a scrubber,” said Rashmi.

“It is not a personal victory for me. All my visually-impaired brethren have won. They will now be provided with a scrubber and also get the benefit of reservation,” said Rashmi.