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What is the Principle of ‘Reasonable Accommodation’?

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 23, Mar 2022
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In its recent verdict on Hijab case, the Karnataka High Court rejected an argument in support of permitting Muslim girls wearing head-scarves that was based on the principle of ‘reasonable accommodation’.

  • This meant that the court did not favour making any change or adjustment to the rule that could have enabled the students to maintain their belief or practice even while adhering to the uniform rule.

What is the Principle of ‘Reasonable Accommodation’?

  • It is a principle that promotes equality, enables the grant of positive rights and prevents discrimination based on disability, health condition or personal belief.
  • It captures the positive obligation of the State and private parties to provide additional support to persons with disabilities to facilitate their full and effective participation in society.

How does the principle work?

The general principle is that reasonable accommodation should be provided, unless some undue hardship is caused by such accommodation.

In 2016, the ILO came out with a practical guide on promoting diversity and inclusion through workplace adjustments.

Four categories of workers were chosen for the guide:

  1. Workers with disabilities.
  2. Workers living with HIV and AIDS.
  3. Pregnant workers and those with family responsibilities.
  4. Workers who hold a particular religion or belief.


  • A modified working environment, shortened or staggered working hours, additional support from supervisory staff and reduced work commitments are ways in which accommodation can be made.
  • Suitable changes in recruitment processes — allowing scribes during written tests or sign language interpreters during interviews — will also be a form of accommodation. 


The provision of reasonable accommodation plays a major role in addressing these barriers and thus contributes to greater workplace equality, diversity and inclusion.

What is te legal position on this in India?

In India, the Rights of People with Disabilities Act, 2016, defines ‘reasonable accommodation’ as “necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments, without imposing a disproportionate or undue burden in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise of rights equally with others”.