The Rajasthan High Court has denounced the criterion of chest measurement to gauge the lung capacity of female candidates during physical examination in recruitment process for foresters “or any other post”, saying it is absolutely arbitrary and outrageous and dents a woman’s dignity.
It also directed the state authorities to seek opinions of experts to explore the possibility of any alternative means to determine the desired level of lung capacity “to avoid this unwarranted humiliation of women candidates”.
Justice Dinesh Mehta made the observation while deciding a petition by three female candidates challenging their disqualification on the parameter of chest measurement despite clearing the Physical Efficiency Test for the post of Forest Guard.
The court preferred not to intervene in the recruitment process, which had already taken place, but stated “some deliberation is necessary about the very requirement of chest measurement for the female candidates, may it be for the recruitment of Forest Guard or Forester or any other post”.
The size of the chest and its expansion in the case of a female candidate may not necessarily be a pointer of physical fitness and a litmus test of the lungs’ capacity, the judge observed in the August 10 order.
“Even if it be so, such measurement impinges upon or intrudes on the privacy of a female. Apart from being irrational, prescribing such criterion disrupts the dignity, bodily autonomy and mental integrity of a woman”, the court stated in its order.
The court observed that the criterion is absolutely arbitrary and outrageous and a clear dent on a woman’s dignity and right to privacy guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
The petitioners have told the court that their measurement was more than required after which the high court sought a report from the medical board of AIIMS.
The report, however, stated that two candidates’ chest measurements were less than required in the “normal condition” while one of them had chest measurement less than required in the “expanded condition”.
Based on this report, the court rejected their petitions and upheld the decision of the recruiting agency to disqualify them, but objected to the use of chest measurement among female candidates.
A copy of the order was marked to the state chief secretary, the secretary of the forest department and the secretary of the department of personnel to have a relook into this criterion.
It asked them to solicit the opinion of experts to explore the possibility of alternative means to determine the desired level of lung capacity.
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