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