Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Ensuring Fair Trials for Defendants with Hearing and Speech Disabilities: Supreme Court’s Call for Guidelines

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: Justice Surya Kant and Justice KV Viswanathan

Case title: Ramnarayan Manhar Vs. State of Chhatisgarh

Case Title: SLP (Crl)............ Diary No(s).15153/2024

Date of Hearing: 16 April 2024

Subject: Lack of Guidelines for Fair Trials for Deaf Accused 


In a recent development, the Supreme Court of India has brought attention to a critical issue concerning the fair trial rights of individuals with hearing and speech disabilities. The court noted the absence of established guidelines for conducting trials against such accused/ defendants and has taken steps to address this gap in the legal framework by issuing notice to Union of India through the Attorney General to examine this question of law and posted the matter on 26 July 2024.

“However, it is brought to our notice that this Court has not laid down so far the parameters and guidelines for conducting trial against a deaf-and-dumb accused, who is otherwise of sound mind and medically fit to commit a heinous offence like rape.” said the bench.

Background of the case

The case in question, Ramnarayan Manhar v. State of Chhattisgarh, revolves around the conviction of the accused for the heinous crime of raping two minor girls. 

The trial court convicted the perpetrator, the matter was forwarded to the High Court as the accused, being deaf, was not able to understand the proceedings. The same was done in light of Section 318 of the CrPC which provides as under:

"318. Procedure where accused does not understand proceedings.

If the accused, though not of unsound mind, cannot be made to understand the proceedings, the Court may proceed with the inquiry or trial, and, in the case of a Court other than a High Court, if such proceedings result in a conviction, the proceedings shall be forwarded to the High Court with a report of the circumstances of the case, and the High Court shall pass thereon such order as it thinks fit."

The High Court, after going through the testimonies of the witnesses, evidence including the medical evidence which corroborated the heinous act, convicted the accused person for attempting to commit rape. Against this conviction, the accused approached the Supreme Court.

After perusing the material on record, the Bench concluded that it was “prima facie satisfied” with the findings of the Trial and the High Court. That being so, the conviction and consequential sentence awarded to the petitioner seems to be justified, the Court expressed.

This move underscores the court’s commitment to upholding the principles of justice and equality for all, including those with disabilities.

Read the copy of the order below in Ramnarayan Manhar v. State of Chhattisgarh:

Friday, April 5, 2024

Karnataka HC: Husband with 75% disability can not be directed to pay maintenance to estranged wife [Judgement included]

Court: Karnataka High Court

Bench: Justice M. Nagaprasanna

Case No.WP No. 48615 of 2013 (GM - FC)

Case Title: Priyanka Singh v Pankaj Singh Sengar 

Date of Judgement: 05 April 2024


In a recent judgment by the Karnataka High Court, presided by Justice M. Nagaprasanna, a significant ruling was made regarding the obligation of a husband to pay maintenance to his estranged wife. The case, titled Priyanka Singh v Pankaj Singh Sengar, addressed the dispute between a husband and wife, where the husband, suffering from a 75% disability, was contested by the wife for maintenance under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.


Mr. Pankaj Singh Sengar and Mrs. Priyanka Singh were married in 2011 and had a daughter together. However, marital discord ensued, leading to the husband filing for annulment of the marriage, alleging the wife's voluntary departure from their matrimonial home. Amidst legal proceedings, the wife filed for interim maintenance, initially granted at Rs. 15,000 monthly, which became a subject of dispute over unpaid arrears. The husband, acquiring a 75% disability due to a stroke, resigned from work, leading to the wife's pursuit of maintenance through execution petitions, resulting in arrest warrants against him.

Court's Decision:

The court, after careful consideration, ruled in favor of the husband, stating that his 75% disability rendered him incapable of securing employment and thus exempted him from paying maintenance. Citing legal precedents and emphasizing the husband's inability to function as an able-bodied individual, the court held that maintenance cannot be expected from someone incapacitated to such a degree.

Key Points of the Judgment:

  • The husband's 75% disability incapacitated him from earning and maintaining the wife and child.
  • The court recalled the maintenance order, restricting it to the date of the husband's disability, to avoid exacerbating his dire situation.
  • Maintenance cannot be granted without considering the spouse's ability to provide it.
  • The responsibility for the grandchild's necessities was placed on the husband's father.


In conclusion, the Karnataka High Court's judgment in Priyanka Singh v Pankaj Singh Sengar sets a significant precedent regarding the obligation of spouses, particularly those with disabilities, to provide maintenance. The ruling reflects a nuanced understanding of familial responsibilities amidst challenging circumstances, ensuring fairness and equity in matrimonial disputes.


This judgment underscores the importance of considering spouses' abilities and circumstances in maintenance disputes, particularly in cases involving disabilities. It highlights the need for empathy and pragmatism in legal proceedings concerning family matters, ensuring just outcomes for all parties involved.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Kerala HC takes Suo Motu notice of Accessibility Challenges in Places of Worship in Kerala [Judgement Included]

Court: Kerala High Court, India
Bench: Justices Anil K Narendran and Harisankar V Menon
Case No: DBP No. 25 of 2024
Case Title:  Suo motu v. State of Kerala
Date of Hearing: 27 March 2024
Next Date of Hearing: 20 May 2024


In a landmark move highlighting the significance of inclusivity within religious spaces, the Kerala High Court has taken a proactive stance by addressing the accessibility concerns of physically disabled individuals in temples. The court's recent suo motu cognizance of a devotee's plea underscores the imperative of ensuring that all worshippers have equal opportunities to participate fully in religious practices, regardless of physical ability.

The suo motu notice, initiated on March 27, 2024, stems from a heartfelt complaint by a woman devotee who faced barriers in accessing the 'Naalambalam' (sanctum sanctorum) of temple due to her physical disability. She sought permission for wheelchair access within temple premises to enable herself and others like her to engage in darshan, a sacred visual communion with the deities.

The bench, led by Justices Anil K Narendran and Harisankar V Menon, appointed Advocate V Ramkumar Nambiar as an amicus curiae, highlighting the court's commitment to a thorough examination of the issue. This proactive approach signifies a broader effort to reconcile religious customs with the principles of equality and inclusivity enshrined in international human rights instruments particularly the UN Conventionon the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Constitution of India and Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 among others.

At the core of this case lies the fundamental right to practice one's religion, a right that should be accessible to all without discrimination. The denial of wheelchair access not only impedes individuals' freedom to worship but also raises pertinent questions about societal treatment towards the disabled community.

The petitioner's poignant experience of being carried by relatives to partake in darshan underscores the significant challenges faced by many in accessing religious services. Moreover, the difficulty in viewing the deities from a seated position on the ground further accentuates the sense of exclusion felt by disabled devotees.

As the case progresses, it presents a unique opportunity to strike a balance between respecting religious traditions and ensuring equal access for all worshippers. The outcome of this legal deliberation could set a precedent for how religious institutions accommodate the needs of disabled individuals, fostering a more inclusive approach to spiritual practice.

The next hearing scheduled for May 20, 2024, holds great anticipation for advocates of disability rights and religious organizations alike. It marks a crucial juncture in the ongoing discourse and implementation of legal mandate surrounding inclusivity in religious spaces and underscores the pivotal role of the judiciary in upholding the dignity and rights of every individual.

Importantly, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act of 2016 defines public buildings, and public services including places of worship like temples, within its scope. The Act mandates accessibility standards to be implemented within a specified timeframe with the accessibility standards issued under the Act. Incidently, the Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Government of India, a nodal authority under section 40 of the RPWD Act 2016 had also issued sectoral guidelines titled,"Guidelines for Making Religious Places Accessible" in 2019. These guidelines outline measures to make religious places accessible, emphasizing the importance of compliance with disability rights legislation.

Furthermore, it is noteworthy to mention the Delhi State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities' order in Case No. 247/1101/2018/05/6629-6644  dated 15.10.2019 , which directed the all the district magistrates to ensure compliance of the provisions of the RPWD Act 2016 and accessibility standards/ guidelines issued thereunder in religious places in Delhi. This order sets a precedent for other states, highlighting the imperative for religious institutions to ensure equal access for all individuals, regardless of their physical abilities.

In conclusion, the Kerala High Court's proactive intervention in addressing accessibility issues in places of worship exemplifies a commitment to upholding the principles of equality and inclusivity. By recognizing and addressing the barriers faced by disabled individuals, the judiciary plays a pivotal role in fostering a society where all members can participate fully in religious practices, regardless of physical ability. It is equally important to address the attitudinal barriers towards persons with disabilities in the places of worship in particular and in the larger society in general.

Below is the copy of the Order dated 27 March 2024 in Suo motu v. State of Kerala

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Punjab & Haryana HC seeks report from three Govts on accessibility of judicial complexes to persons with disabilities [Interim order included]

Court: Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh
Bench: Justice Gurmeet Singh Sandhawalia and Justice Lapita Banerji
Case No.: CWP-PIL-56-2024
Case Title: Court on its Own Motion vs. High Court of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh
Date of Hearing & Interim Order: 21 March 2024
NDOH: 16 April 2024


The present petition was listed before the division bench on account of a reference made by the learned Single Judge Justice Harpreet Singh Brar, to provide appropriate infrastructure to make judicial complexes across the States of Punjab, Haryana and U.T., Chandigarh accessible to persons with disabilities, in public interest, keeping in mind the provisions of Sections 44, 45 and 46 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Taking a suo motu cognizane of the lack of infrastructure in judicial complexes which may be inaccessible to persons with disabilities in Punjab, Haryana and U.T. Chandigarh the division bench of Acting Chief Justice GS Sandhawalia and Justice Lapita Banerji on 21 Mar 2024 sought a status report from the Governments of Punjab, Haryana and U.T. Chandigarh on the accessibility status of judicial complexes to persons with disabilities. 

The division bench asked the Governments whether there is compliance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 in the infrastructure of Judicial complexes in various court complexes of districts and High Court.

The matter was referred to the bench on a plea was filed by a 60-year-old disabled lady who sought transfer of her case at District Court Punjab's Malerkotla, from the first floor to the ground floor as the judicial complex did not have any provision for a ramp or an elevator to facilitate a disabled person to attend the Court proceedings.

The right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India is not limited to mere animal-like existence but includes the right to live a meaningful life, with dignity in the truest sense of the term. Absence of appropriate facilities in public buildings, especially judicial complexes, equates to a denial of access to justice and amounts to discrimination against persons with disabilities.

The State has been reminded of its obligation to create a level playing field and provide all necessary facilities to realize the fundamental rights guaranteed to its citizens by the Constitution, including the right to move freely across the territory of India. The next date of hearing is scheduled for 16 April 2024, where the State is expected to file a special affidavit concerning the District Court of Malerkotla.

This case is a testament to the judiciary’s proactive role in safeguarding the rights of the disabled and ensuring that justice is accessible to all, regardless of physical limitations. It serves as a reminder that the pursuit of justice must be inclusive and accommodating to the needs of every citizen.

The order though restricts to seeking status on provisions of lifts and ramps, thus leaving out a huge gamut under the accessibility domain that includes, parking, signage and orientation, tactile maps, TGSIs, colour contrasts, floor surface, accesssible toilets, emergency evacuation for people with disabilities, sign language interpretation for deaf litigants and lawyers, braille and ICT Access for persons with vision impairments among others. 

The court should ideally call for a proper access audit of all the district courts in the two states and the UT of Chandigarh from empanelled access auditors of Govt. of India and follow up until the access recommendations  are implemented in toto. We have already delayed the accessibility mandate as the law provided for 5 year time frame for buildings that expired in 2022.

Read the interim order dated 21 March 2024 below:

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Madras HC- State Govt. ought to have ensured Kilambakkam Bus Terminus disabled friendly as per the accessibilty mandate of RPWD Act

Court: Madrash High Court, Principal Benchat Chennai

Bench:  Chief Justice Mr. Sanjay V. Gangapurwala and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy

Case No. WP No. 29942 of 2023

Case Title: Ms. Vaishnavi Jayakumar Vs. Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority & Others

Date of Judgement: 24 Jan 2024 (PDF 164 KB)

Subject: Accessibility of Public Transportation system, Access Audit of Public Buildings and Built Environment, Grant of Completition Certificate to Buildings,


The petition was filed seeking directions against the first respondent to take necessary measures so as to ensure that the Kilambakkam Bus Terminus in Tamilnadu is fully compliant with design and standards prescribed in the Harmonized Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India, 2021 as as to be accessible to persons with disabilities.

Durign the hearing on 15 Dec 2024, the government of Tamil Nadu had informed that steps have been taken to make the terminus disabled-friendly. Observing that it is now 'mandatory in every building to have disabled friendly access facilities', the Chief Justice had stressed that "this has to be done before starting the construction".

The petitioner Ms. Vaishnavi Jayakumar had sought the court to restrain the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) from issuing a completion certificate to the bus terminus without being certified as compliant with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and the 2017 Rules by an empanelled access audit agency.

She also wanted the court to issue directions to conduct a detailed accessibility audit of the terminus through an empanelled access audit agency as it is not in compliance with the Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India, 2021.

Jayakumar had argued that the terminus was found slippery, there was reflective flooring without adequate contrast, absence of even a single toilet enabling bilateral wheelchair transfer onto the commode, the entire first floor does not have tactile flooring or warning and no dropped kerb (lowered areas of pavement) for wheelchair users to get onto the bus bay tarmac from the elevated seating area.

Ensuing Access Audit report pointed outu some 17 deficiencies and the first respondent subsequently issued work orders with regard to seven deficiencies and with regard to the remaining ten deficiencies, it assured that the work orders would be issued within two months from today. 

The petitioner submitted that in additon there are four more bus stands coming up one each at Koothambakkam, Venpakkam, Varadarajapuram and Mamallapuram. "The aforesaid bus stands will have to be constructed in compliance with the Harmonized Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India, 2021 and the first respondent shall take necessary steps while issuing the tender notice." the bench directed.

Court also expressed, "We would appreciate if the Access Auditors would make periodical inspection during the construction activity of the bus stands and make necessary suggestions as and when required" and accordingly dispossed off the petition with directions to submit Compliance Report on 25.3.2024.

Read the disposing judgement dated 24 Jan 2024 in the instant case below: