Monday, December 20, 2021

Madras HC | M. Sameeha Barvin Vs. Govt. of India (Min. of Youth and Sports)

Court:         Madras High Court

Bench:         Justice R Mahadevan

Case Title:  M. Sameeha Barvin Vs.  Govt. of India (Min. of Youth and Sports) and Four Others

Case No.      Writ Petition No. 16953 of 2021

Date of Judgement : 20 December  2021

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Brief Case

“Disabled women struggle with both the oppression of being women in male dominated societies and the oppression of being disabled in societies dominated by the able-bodied”  - Susan Wendell

This explains the tribulations faced by the petitioner, who finds it impossible to speak or listen, but able to achieve gold and silver medals in long jump and high jump at the State and National levels, having been denied the opportunity of participation in the Fourth World Deaf Athletics Championship, 2021, held at Lublin, Poland and being able to participate in the same only on the strength of the interim order dated 13.08.2021, on knocking the doors of this Court.

The 18-year-old M. Sameeha Barvin had moved the court alleging gender discrimination after AISCD refused to select her despite a good performance in the trials. In her petition, Sameeha said that of the 12 athletes who had participated, 10 were men and two women and she had finished first in the latter category. On seeking to know why she wasn’t selected, it was disclosed that the selection authorities were against sending a lone female member to the event. The athlete, who has 90 per cent hearing impairment, said this amounts to gender discrimination.

Justice R Mahadevan who investigated the issue said Sameeha’s effort can’t be ignored. “Even going by the past records of the petitioner, she had won 11 gold medals, one silver and one bronze in various state and national events. This achievement of the petitioner cannot be simply brushed aside,” he said. Furthermore, he stated that no female athletes were selected, and Barwin deserves to take part in the championship. 

“Admittedly, out of the five selected athletes, none of the female athlete were selected. In the female category, it was the petitioner who stood first and therefore, in all fairness, the petitioner ought to have been selected by the respondents so that she could bring laurels to the country by participating in the 4th World Deaf Athletics Championship,” the court said.

Interim order: 

The Madras High Court single bench had earlier issued an interim order directing the All India Sports Council of the Deaf (AISCD) to permit 18-year-old athlete Sameeha Barwin to participate in the World Deaf Athletics Championship to be held at Lublin, Poland from August 23-28,2021. The representative of the Ministry of Youth and Sports had said the ministry will abide by the court’s decision. 

The Final Order:

After the detailed analysis and findings, the Court  reached the conclusion that this was a case of discrimination based on the gender as well as the disability, due to which, the petitioner  faced several difficulties and barriers to participate in the international event. The State and Central Governments, being the competent authorities to provide and ensure support and safety to the sports women with disabilities, so as to inspire their confidence freely and take part actively in the events at all levels, have failed to do the same in an appropriate manner. 

Therefore, in exercise of the power  conferred under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, to render substantial justice, this court issues the following directions to the respondent authorities for the purpose of streamlining the policy qua woman athletes with disabilities, in consultation with experts, so as to enable them to participate in all the events at State, National and International levels, with equality and dignity:

(i)    to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination against the women athletes with disabilities, on one or more grounds including race, gender, sex, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

(ii)    to provide adequate financial assistance and all other requisites to the women athletes with disabilities, so as to participate in all the events.

(iii)    to follow proper selection process, so as to enable the meritorious candidates to participate in the events.

(iv)    To provide necessary training and free medical facilities to all the women athletes with disabilities, who achieve meritorious level in the respective sports for participation in all the international games.

(v)    to provide all possible means to entertain women athletes with disabilities to utilise their fullest potentials and capabilities so as to achieve success in all the events.

(vi)    to provide all the disabled friendly materials, clothes, prosthetics and other accessories that may be required by the women athletes with disabilities in day today affairs, with incentives so as to encourage and nurture their excellence in the respective sports and to participate in the events at all levels.

(vii)    to extend the financial assistance to one of the family members, who accompany the disabled female athletes to participate in the international games. 

(viii)    To give effect to the principle of reasonable accommodation by providing all assistance that are required / requested by the females athletes with disabilities so as to enable them to participate in the international games, on par with males.

(ix)    to ensure safety and security of the female athletes with disabilities during their travel, irrespective of number of participants, so as to inspire their confidence freely and take part actively in the events at all levels.

(x )    to sensitize the male counter parts and inculcate the sense of equality in their mind, so as to maintain safe environment for women athletes at all levels.

(xi)    to reward all the disabled women participants in the international games, irrespective of their achievements or otherwise.

(xii)    Must ensure that all the women athletes whether with or without disabilities, be given equal treatment on par with males, so as to enjoy full and equal rights and freedoms and to maintain their dignity.

Read the Court Order embedded below: