Monday, September 21, 2009

When Deaf People could drive all over the World why not in India?

Dear Friends,
No wonder people often exclaim on the road "are you deaf?" when they don't get a side while overtaking another vehicle. Well, this long settled notion is going to wither away in India while we are moving towards more equalitarian and rights based society with this Writ Petition not only being admitted by the Delhi High Court on the petition filed by my colleagues at HRLN, more particularly Mr. Pankaj Sinha, the young lawyer, but also calling upon the Government of India to respond as to why this Writ not be issued and made absolute in favour of the petitioners.

You will be surprised to know that earlier also such attempts were made at Delhi High Court by the NGOs but the petitions were dismissed at the admission stage itself. But this time, a well drafted and well researched document was prepared by the lawyers and also perhaps first time articles of UNCRPD were used to articulate the injustice being meted out to this segment of the disabled fraternity in India.

World over the deaf are allowed to drive vehicles like any body else with some additional conditions of an extra back view mirror. This is with the scientific rationale that driving involves almost 80-90% visual activity and Deaf could be safe drivers without any risk to fellow travellers. Additionally with many new gadgets coming in the market to compensate the loss of hearing with other sensory organs, this discrimination is of course against the very principle of equality that Constitution of India grants to all its citizens including those experiencing hearing difficulties.

The Writ Petition being a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) is going to have far reaching consequences for the Ministry of Transport for they have to evolve now to address this issue and change all their laws, rules, procedures, forms, medical statements etc to include this segment.
I congratulate NAD (National Association of the Deaf), Advocate Pankaj Sinha and Senior Advocate Collin Gonsalves and 50 million deaf Indians on this success. We have moved a step further towards realising equality for all in India.

The news coverage:

'Should deaf drive? Centre says yes; HC to take call'

Why should an Indian deaf national be denied this right? 
COLIN GONSALVES, Senior lawyer

Here's some good news for around 50 million hearing impaired people in the country.
The Centre has submitted before Delhi High Court that it is considering allowing those suffering from hearing disability to obtain a driving licence.

The archaic Motor Vehicles Act prohibits the deaf from obtaining a drivers' licence, saying they could be a "source of danger to the public".

The court is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) seeking a direction to quash the requirement of having "no hearing impairment for the issuance of driving licence".

A Bench of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice Manmohan on Friday recorded the statement by Additional Solicitor General A.S. Chandiok appearing for the Centre that they are considering all the relevant materials and will make appropriate recommendations on issuing driving licences to the hearing impaired. The process is set to be completed in four weeks.

Road Transport and Highways Ministry counsel Jyoti Singh said medical experts are of the view that those who can hear sound up to 60 decibels with the use of hearing aid can be permitted hold a driving licence for private vehicles, while those with hearing level up to 40 decibels with hearing aid can be allowed to drive commercial vehicles.
Singh said a specially constituted high-powered committee of the ministry will soon meet to discuss the issue.


The PIL also draws strength from views expressed by Delhi Police on its website that deafness does not render one incapable of driving safely. "There is no reason why deaf people should not be allowed to drive,"the website says. But it suggests use of additional rear-view mirrors by this category of drivers The NAD said the deaf are allowed to drive all over the world, except in 26 countries. In the UK, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Thailand and Malaysia authorities insist on special double rear-view mirrors. In Malaysia and Sri Lanka this category of drivers are to indicate the handicap by putting a sticker on the back of the car so that other drivers do not hoot at the driver. But they are not allowed to drive commercial or passenger vehicles.

Senior lawyer and human rights activist Colin Gonsalves, who represented the NAD, told the court that discrimination against the deaf in India was a clear violation of Article 14 of the constitution.

"A deaf person with an international driver's licence is able to drive in India, then why should an Indian deaf national be denied this right? The Constitution demands equality for all before the law," he said.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reservation on single post would amount to 100% Reservation

Dear Friends,

Many of us in the Disability sector believe that 3% reservation for the PWD can be claimed on all posts including single posts. However, the courts have several times clarified that reservation on the single posts would be discriminatory to others and is against the provisions of Constitution of India as it will tantamount to 100% reservation.

SC Vashishth
To read from source, click here

Delhi HC dismisses plea for reservation to single post of VC

The Delhi High Court dismissed the petition of a person who sought the court’s intervention to grant disability reservation to him in the appointment of Vice-Chancellor (VC) in newly-formed 15 universities.

A bench, comprising Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice Manmohan, dismissed the petition as withdrawn as there was only one post for the VC which could not be covered under any reservation clause.

Petitioner P R Ramanujam, who is suffering from locomotive disability and working as a professor of distance education and director of staff training and research institute in IGNOU, applied for the post of first VC in the newly formed 15 universities established under the Central University Act, 2009.

Mr Ramanujam contended that there was a statutory mechanism providing three per cent reservation to persons with disabilities, therefore, his name should be considered under the reserved category. Additional Solicitor General A S Chandhioke and Government Standing Counsel Ravinder Agarwal told the court that in this case reservation of any type could not be granted because there was only one seat for the post of VC and if reservation was granted, it would mean 100 per cent reservation. On this, the petitioner withdrew his petition.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Delhi High Court directs Union of India to amend Insurance Rules for the Disabled Employees

Dear Friends,

Many govt. employees were voicing their concerns on the in equal treatment meted out to them by the Govt's Postal Life Insurance Scheme where with a normal premium, the non-disabled employees were given a cover up to Rs. 5 lac while the disabled employees were given merely a cover of just Rs. 1 lac, that too with an increased premium and lot of hiccups.

Citing UNCRPD and equality principles that Constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens - including those experiencing disabilities, the matter was filed before Delhi High Court by Advocate Pankaj Sinha (an emerging lawyer with blindness who currently work with Human Rights Law Network, Delhi).

The Court not only admitted the petition on the first date itself, but also directed the Solicitor General to appear in person and respond to the discrimination. I am so happy to share this news with you today - not only because this is a welcoming move by the Delhi High Court where a case is being fought citing UNCRPD but also because Mr. Pankaj Sinha has been my associate in the past and I am proud to have groomed him in the human rights and especially disability rights discourse - to which he was initially never inclined as he always wanted to be a criminal lawyer.

Cheers to Pankaj and Cheers to the Human Rights Law Network (read Mr. Collin Gonsalves)! and also to Mr. Rajiv Raturi, Director- Disability Rights Initiative, HRLN. Would post the detailed judgement once the final verdict is delivered by the Court.

Here is the detailed article by an enthusiast reporter Ms. Sangeeta Sharma from United News Of India(UNI). She supplements that the centre had sought 6 weeks time to ammend the concerned rules on the 07 October 09 (the date of hearing). Ms. Sangeeta can reached at

S.C. Vashishth, Advocate

Delhi HC directs Centre to amend its insurance rules for disabled


The Delhi High Court directed the Central government to reconsider its postal insurance rules and to treat the persons with disability at par with other people. Appearing on behalf of the government, Solicitor General (SG) Gopal Subramanium assured the court that the government will take broad base consultation with experts and also take advice from the insurance regulator and draft a fresh policy which will have no disparity for the disabled.A bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice Manmohan directed the government to file their reply to the court within four weeks as to what will be their stand in this regard.

Fixing the matter for October 7, the court told the SG to revisit the Postal Insurance Policy as they have taken all disabled under one category. "When fixation of the policy is to be done, then you must consider the distinction between various types of disability as well as mortality factor caused by it. Moreover, life expectancy and other factors should also be taken into account," Justice Shah said.

A petition in this connection was filed by one Vikas Gupta, an Assistant Professor in Department of History, Delhi University, who is visually impaired. In his petition he said,"Rules of the postal insurance for government employees is discriminatory as it gives a cover of Rs 5 lakh to a normal person, but a handicap has to pay much more premium and gets an insurance cover of Rs one lakh only."

The Lawyer for the petitioner Mr Pankaj Sinha, also a visually impaired, and lawyer Ms Roma Bhagat told the court that Article 25 E of United Nations Convention On Rights for Personal Disability (UNCRPD) prohibit discrimination in the insurance policy. Ms Bhagat told the court that their research has shown that those who are hearing impaired, visually impaired or orthopedically impaired are less prone to accidents as they have less mobility and are more cautious.

She told the court that there is no data available in India to show the cause of death as the death certificate does not mention it. Also, there is no data to suggest that disabled are more prone to accidents so why they have to pay more to get a less insurance cover, Ms Bhagat said.