Monday, August 1, 2022

DHC constitutes High Powered Committee to recommend Solutions for ensuring Access to Financial Services for people with vision impairments [Court Order included]

Dear Colleagues,

A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad, while hearing a petition filed by Mr. George Abraham, a petitioner with vision impairment on the difficulties being faced by visually challenged persons in accessing financial services and general non-compliance of the provisons of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, has constituted a seven membeer High Powered Committee of experts to recommend solutions. 

The bench was hearing several public interest petitions which were clubed with the lead case by Mr. George Abraham. Other petitioners included All India Confederation of the Blind, Blind Graduate Forum of India and Rohit Dandriyal & others. 

The High Powered Committee shall be chaired by Prof. M Balakrishnan, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Delhi. The order said, "High Powered Committee is constituted by this Court to look into all the grievances raised in the present application and the connected writ petitions to offer practical solutions in the matter. It is needless to state that the scope of the work of the Committee will not be confined only to the issues raised in the present writ petitions but other ancillary issues as well." 

As per the Court order dated 29 July 2022, the High Powered Committee shall consist of the following persons:- 

i. Prof. M. Balakrishnan, Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Delhi. (Chairman of the committee)

ii. Prof. Kolin Paul, Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Delhi. 

iii. Ms. Manisha Mishra, (GM), Department of Regulation. RBI

iv. Mr. Tushar Bhattacharya, (DGM) Department of Supervision. RBI 

v. Mr. George Abraham, the Petitioner in W.P.(C) 694/2020. 

vi. Mr. Amar Jain, Member of Blind Graduates Forum of India i.e. the Petitioner in W.P.(C) 64/2019. 

vii. Officer to be nominated by the Union of India. 

The court also requested the Director, IIT Delhi  to provide all logistic support to the Committee constituted under the Chairmanship of Prof. M Balakrishnan.

The petitioner Mr. George Abraham had prayed before the Court seeking directions/ appropriate writs:

  1. to ensure that all the banks comply with the Master Circular DBR No. Leg. BC. 21 / 09.07.006 / 2015-16, dated July 1, 2015 issued by/  Respondent No.3;
  2. to ensure that card reading devices for making card payments (Point-of-Sale Machines) are accessible for visually challenged persons;
  3. to ensure that all bank websites and mobile phone applications for financial services are tested for accessibility at every stage of transaction;
  4. to make it mandatory that all net banking facilities and mobile phone applications comply with W3C guidelines which are recognized by the Government of India;
  5. to make it mandatory that all digital mobile wallet applications are accessible and user-friendly for visually challenged persons;
  6. to ensure all ATM machines are voice-enabled and accessible for visually challenged persons;
  7. to ensure that all software and hardware products procured by banks to be disabled-friendly;
  8. for implementation of Section 13 of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016 with regard to visually challenged persons having control over their financial affairs;
  9. to ensure that employees and customer care service providers of all banks and financial services are trained and sensitized towards the needs and requirements of visually challenged customers;

"This Court is pained to observe at this juncture that it is unfortunate that judicial intervention is required in such matters when measures to ensure ease of accessibility for the specially-abled should be implemented in a proactive manner. However, this Court hopes that the Committee will take these observations into consideration while arriving at a feasible solution," the Bench said.

The Court has granted three months to the committee for filing status report in the matter.  The matter will now be heard on November 25, 2022.

Here is the Court order in the case W.P.(C) 694/2020 titled George Abraham Vs. Union of India & Ors. dated 29 July 2022