Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Delhi High Court directs the private schools to make their schools barrier free & inclusive

Dear Colleagues,

After its order directing all private and government schools in Delhi to appoint Special educators for children with disabilities and provide necessary teaching and learning material earlier, the Delhi High Court, on a petition by Social Jurist has ordered to make all private schools barrier free for the disabled. It was brought to the notice of the court that private schools do not have adequate physical and academic infrastructure for children with disabilities and thus children forced in to these institution continued to face discrimination.

It was pointed out in the petition that there are 2039 unaided recognized private schools (1260 recognized by Directorate of Education (DoE), GNCTD and 779 recognized by MCD) and 258 aided recognized private schools (214 aided by DoE, GNCTD and 44 aided by MCD) in Delhi and most of them do not have the provisions of basic physical as well as academic infrastructure, including Special Educators as required for the education of the children with disabilities; These schools also did not provide barrier free infrastructure to the children with disabilities. This violated Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 of such children as guaranteed under Articles 14,15,21, 21-A & 38 of the Constitution of India as well as contrary to the provisions of Delhi School Education Act, 1973, Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, U.N. Convention on Rights of Child (1989) and U.N. Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006).

The bench of Hon'ble Acting Chief Justice and Hon'ble Mr. Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw while hearing the petition W.P.(C) No.4618/2011 titled  Social Jurist, A civil rights group versus Govt. of NCT of Delhi directed all recognised, aided and unaided private schools in Delhi to appoint special educators and to make their buildings/school premises barrier-free for children with disabilities. The Director of Education has been directed to ensure that the Court Orders were followed and to de-recognise any school that has not made its premises disabled-friendly.

The court has now granted time up until March 31, 2013, to the schools to make their premises barrier-free and to appoint special educators with the next two years.

“Schools where children with special needs are already admitted or will be admitted hereafter shall immediately make provision for special school shall refuse admission to children with disability for the reason of not employing special educators or not providing barrier-free access on the school premises,” the court order says.

The court has also clarified that the capital expenditure on making the school building and premises barrier free so as to allow free movement to children with disability has to be incurred by the schools from their own coffers and is not reimbursable by the Government as Section 19 of the RTE Act requires all schools, as a condition for their recognition, to provide a barrier free access in their buildings.

The Court ordered that the schools where children with special needs are already admitted or will be admitted hereafter shall immediately make provision for Special Educators and further ordain that no school shall refuse admission to children with disability for the reason of not employing Special Educators or not providing barrier free access in the school premises

It may be pertinent to mention here that earlier a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court in matter Social Jurist, A Civil Rights Group Vs. Govt. of NCT of Delhi 163 (2009) DLT 489 had directed the GNCTD as well schools run by local bodies namely NDMC, MCD and Cantonment Board to ensure that each school shall have at least two special educators and that necessary teaching aids and reading materials are provided to children with disability. However, this did not cover the Private schools.

Those who want to go through the detailed order, Click here. W.P.(C) No.4618/2011

Media Coverage

Subhash Chandra Vashishth

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

ICAI's writer guidelines still discriminatory against persons with disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

This post is to alert the students with disabilities appearing in the CA exams organised by ICAI that start tomorrow onwards i.e. 02 May 2013 onwards and are facing any problem with regard to scribe / writers etc. 

The Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India on the order of Chief Commissioner Disabilities, have issued "Uniform and Comprehensive Guidelines for conducting examinations for the persons with disabilities"  vide Memorandum No F.No. 16-110/2003-DD.III dated 26 Feb 2013. These guidelines are binding on all the recruitment agencies, academics/ examination bodies including ICAI.

However, the ICAI's has till date not taken any step to revise their writer guidelines. Many of you would recall that last year during the month of April, we had to challenge the arbitrary and unreasonable Writer's Guidelines that put draconian conditions for usage of writers/ scribe by the persons with disabiliteis.  This issue was covered in my earlier post dated 26 April 2012 titled "ICAI imposes arbitrary writers/ scribes conditions for students with disabilities". 

When the ICAI did not budge even after a clear cut order from the Court of Chief Commissioner Disabilities, we had to urgently move the Delhi High Court on 02 May 2012 who passed its Judgement in the matter titled "Subhash Chandra Vashishth Vs. Institute of Chartered Accountants of India" on the same day allowing the petition and striking down the arbitrary guidelines as detailed in my earlier post dated 02 May 2012 for the said exams.

Discrimination Continues

Though as directed by the Hon'ble High Court in the above order, in a subsequent meeting of the ICAI board, some conditions objected by us were removed and a new guideline was brought out. However, several restrictive conditions still remained which are now running contrary to the Uniform Guidelines of the MSJE dated 26 Feb 2013. 

One of them is "Writer should be the same person for all the papers of an examination and in case there is a need to change the writer for the reasons beyond the control of the concerned examinee or the writer and a request in this behalf is made, change may be allowed.  Such a change in writer will be permissible once during the course of an examination." 

This works against the interest of the persons with disabilities since it is difficult to find good writers in the exam season. And one person can have exigencies of life that may now allow him/her to attend all the examinations.  Only a person with disability knows how difficult it is to find a competent writer. 

The ICAI has further restricted the writers on the basis of qualifications. The chartered accountancy is a technical examination and any undergraduate can not reduced the dictation on the answer sheet with perfection. But the ICAI has put in the following qualifications for writers:

Qualification of writer as per ICAI's Guidelines
MSJE Guidelines
10th/ /Matriculation 

No cap on qualification. Invigilation needs to be strengthened
Final/Intermediate [IPCE]    
Under Graduate and neither registered students of CA/CWA/CS course nor passed Final examination and nor a member of the ICAI, ICWAI, and ICSI.
No cap of qualifications
Post qualification course (meant for members of 

Graduate (other than in Commerce or Corporate Laws Stream )  and neither registered students of CA/CWA/CS course nor passed Final examination and nor a member of the ICAI, ICWAI, and ICSI.
No cap on qualifications

One of the candidate wrote to the ICAI officials in mid of March 2013 requesting ICAI to relax the conditions so that they could appear with multiple writers those who are at least commerce graduates. However, today i.e. one day before the examination, suddenly the candidate received the following response by email :

"Please refer to your mail dated 14th March, 2013, stating, inter alia, as under:-

(a)  I be permitted to get different scribes for the different days of examinations so that unavailability of good scribes does not cause an impediment to my succeeding at the examination and;

(b)  It is requested that the regulations with relation to scribes be revised to enable visually impaired persons to use scribes who are commerce graduates.

In connection in the above, following is stated as under:

a)   In terms of related guidelines in place, ‘writer should be the same person for all the papers of an examination and in case there is a need to change the writer for the reasons beyond the control of the concerned examinee or the writer and a request in this behalf is made, change may be allowed.  Such a change in writer will be permissible once during the course of an examination.’

Hence, we regret our inability to accede to your request for different writers. In case, however, change in writer is beyond your control, you may submit a  request at the appropriate for change in writer as stated above. Such a change would be permissible only once.  The related guidelines are hosted on website .  You may like to visit the same.

b) The guidelines are framed at appropriate level vis-à-vis considering all the relevant factors.  Please refer to point No.2 of the enclosed revised guidelines.

ICAI, Exams."

The candidate was shocked to receive the response just a day before the exam. It is ICAI's tactic to inform the candidates closer to the actual exam so that no candidate can approach for legal remedy and suffer in silence. They did this last year also. 

The so called revised guidelines hosted on the icai website  have been found to be arbitrary, unlawful and highly unfair for persons with disabilities. The Additional Secretary- Exams, ICAI has been alerted to resolve this on priority today through a detailed telephonic call and also a detailed email by the undersigned. However, the response did not confirm any immediate action but only a typical  assurance "we are seized of the matter and are looking at it. Lets see what we can do  and we will try to do something....."

The Chief Commissioner- Disabilities has also acted promptly with a letter asking the ICAI to not only allow the students with disabilities to avail multiple number of scribes/ writers to write their exams but also have writers with no cap on qualifications or age etc. It means a student with disability can also take along with him/her a junior student studying in the same college/institution or a family member.

All students with disabilities espcially those who are entitled for writers/ extra time and who are to appear in the ICAI examination that starts tommorrow should claim the benefits of the Scribe Guidelines of the Ministry of Social Justice referred above.If any of the students/ candidates with disabilities particularly those with vision impairment  face any problem while appearing for the ICAI exams that start tomorrow, please do let us know.

Mr. Pranay Gadodia & others at Eye-way Help Desk  deserve accolades for facilitating the candidates approach us in time.