November 28
2021
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Emilija Berzanskaite
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21st October 2021
Employment & Immigration Human Rights Justice & Litigation

Court of Justice: total exclusion of blind person as paid juror is discriminatory on grounds of disability in the workplace

The Court of Justice ruled in Komisia za zashtita ot diskriminatsia (C-824/19) that an outright refusal to accept a blind juror, who is entitled to remuneration, to sit in criminal proceedings and perform his professional activity is discriminatory on grounds of disability in the workplace.

In the context of a dispute in Bulgaria between the court members and a blind juror, the Court of Justice was asked to interpret Directive 2000/78/EC, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of disability, and to determine whether the total exclusion of a blind person from participating in criminal proceedings as a paid juror can be justified on the basis of Article 4(1) of the Directive, in particular because sight could be considered to constitute a genuine occupational requirement within the meaning of that provision.

The Court of Justice in its judgment concluded that the total exclusion of a blind person, on the basis of an assessment of her presumed inability to perform the duties of a juror on account of disability, is disproportionate and constitutes discrimination contrary to Directive 2000/78.

The Court considered that the person who meets the criteria laid down in national law to be a juror and who has been admitted to work in that capacity for remuneration, therefore, carry out a professional activity, falls under the scope of the Directive 2000/78. As such, the difference in treatment under the existence of a genuine and determining occupation requirements laid down in Article 4(1) of that Directive, can only be justified if it serves a legitimate objective in a proportionate manner.

The Court recalled that the derogation from the right to equal treatment of persons with disabilities, must be interpreted strictly, and Directive 2000/78, read in the light of the Articles 21 and 26 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, requires that the rules and principles of criminal law be interpreted in such a way as to ensure that a blind juror can, as far as possible, participate in jury duty with an overarching goal to integrate people with disabilities into social life and working environment. 

It was concluded, therefore, that the total exclusion of the blind juror from the outset without having examined her individual capability of carrying out the jury tasks, with or without specific assistance, goes beyond what is necessary to ensure the assessment of proof in criminal proceedings and thus is discriminatory on grounds of disability. 

Read the judgment here (not available in English at the time of publication).

An Op-Ed on this case by Delia Ferri will be published soon on EU Law Live.

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