Chest Measurement Of Women Criterion For Forest Guard Exam Is Outrageous: Rajasthan HC

New Delhi: It came as a shock to Rajasthan High Court that chest measurement was a criterion for the selection of female candidates for the post of forest guard.  It is an absolutely “arbitrary, outrageous, immodest” practice and is against the dignity and right of privacy under the Constitution.

“Even if it be so, such measurement impinges upon or intrudes 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 said, as per a LiveLaw report.

A single judge bench of Dinesh Mehta asked the Chief Secretary; Secretary of the Forest Department and the Secretary of the Department of Personnel, Government of Rajasthan, to have a relook at such criterion or relevant rule by taking experts’ opinion to explore the possibility of alternative means to determine the desired level of lung capacity so as to ensure that unwarranted humiliation of women candidates is avoided.

The court was also informed that no such test is being provided for recruitment to the post of a police constable in the case of female candidates.

“This court is perturbed by the lack of sensitivity exhibited by the administrative authorities while formulating the hiring policy/rules. Not only does it appear to be scientifically unfounded, but also immodest. Furthermore, when the yardstick of minimum chest size is not provided for other government jobs involving comparable or more physical activity (such as police constables), one does not see any rhyme or reason behind the criterion in question, particularly for female candidates,” the bench said.

While dismissing a writ petition by Vandana Kanwar and two others as they failed to meet the standards, the bench said this court is unable to come over the shock it got on seeing the parameters laid down for ascertaining physical standards of women candidates.

“This court cannot, but refrain from observing that the respondents’ act of setting up chest measurement to be a criterion, particularly for female candidates, is absolutely arbitrary, rather outrageous to say the least. It is a clear dent on a lady’s dignity and right of privacy guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India,” the bench said.

The court said that the size of a woman’s chest is irrelevant for the purposes of determining her strength.

“The qualifying criteria is based on incorrect assumptions that having a minimum chest girth would ensure the physical fitness of a woman. The practice adopted, apart from lacking any scientific validity, is humiliating, derogatory and an affront to a woman’s dignity,” the bench said.

Considering that a candidate is otherwise required to clear a physical efficiency test, in which she has to jump 1.35 meters (Standing Broad Jump) and throw shot put (4 kg) to a distance of 4.5 meters, the condition of minimum chest circumference looks irrational and unwarranted, the bench stated.

“Measuring expansion to determine lung capacity is understandable and can be accepted but prescribing a ‘minimum chest circumference’ is absolutely ludicrous and the same cannot be countenanced. For such purpose, there are modern tests available and if the respondents do not wish to resort to such methods, they can well ask the candidates to run for a particular distance, as is being done by the state in police constable recruitments,” the court suggested.

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