Showing posts with label Justice DY Chandrachud. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Justice DY Chandrachud. Show all posts

Monday, December 5, 2022

Supreme Court of India appoints Committee for Accessibility Audit of Supreme Court Premises on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

05 Dec 2022, New Delhi, India

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr D Y Chandrachud has decided for a comprehensive accessibility audit of the Supreme Court premises, with an aim of ensuring accessibility in the justice system and understanding the hardships faced by the specially-abled persons, in their interface with the Supreme Court.

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities observed on December 3 every year, the CJI has constituted a "Supreme Court Committee on Accessibility" chaired by a sitting judge of the apex court. The initiative by the CJI is in lines with the World Health Organisation's this year theme "Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world".

Justice S Ravindra Bhat will be in charge of the “Supreme Court Committee on Accessibility,” which has been tasked with carrying out an extensive accessibility audit of the Supreme Court’s facilities extending to both physical as well as technological accessibility. .

The committee’s member secretary will be an officer from the Supreme Court registry.  In addition, the committee consists of:

  • A Bengaluru-based professor from NLSIU;
  • Supreme Court employee with different abilities;
  • A Supreme Court Bar Association-nominated Differently Abled Advocate;
  • A person suggested by NALSAR University’s Centre for Disability Studies (Mr. Nilesh Singit)

The audit will cover both technology and physical accessibility. A questionnaire for people with disabilities who visit the Supreme Court premises to determine the nature and scope of their issues has also been assigned to the Committee for preparation and distribution. 

The Committee will also solicit input from advocates, litigants, interns, and other members of the Supreme Court. The Committee will prepare a report that will include the audit and survey results and recommendations for removing access barriers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Supreme Court of India- Degree of disability no ground to deny reasonable accommodation [Judgement Included]

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: Justice Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud; Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Sanjiv Khanna

Case Number: Civil Appeal No. 273 of 2021 Special Leave Petition (C) No. 1882 of 2021 

Case Title: Vikash Kumar v. Union Public Service Commission & Others.

Date of Judgement: 11 February 2021  

Cited as:  2021 SCC OnLine SC 84

Cases refered/quoted

Case Brief:

On February 11, 2021, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India in Vikash Kumar v. Union Public Service Commission (Vikash Kumar) held that that an individual suffering from Writer’s Cramp or dysgraphia which is neither an identified disability in the Act nor has been certified as benchmark disability, is entitled to a scribe in India’s Civil Services’ Examination (CSE). 

The judgement is a significant step towards ensuring inclusivity for persons with disabilities as it emphatically affirms their position as rights bearers. It represents a move from a medical model of disability wherein disability is viewed as an affliction to a human rights model in consonance with the mandate of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD).

Case details:

In a landmark 62-page judgment, the Supreme Court of India has said that the principle of reasonable accommodation, spelt out in the 2016 Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, captures the positive obligation of the State and private parties to provide additional support to persons with disabilities to facilitate their full and effective participation in society. 

The Court further said that “…Cases such as the present offer us an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution in the project of creating the RPwD generation in India… A generation of disabled people in India which regards as its birthright access to the full panoply of constitutional entitlements, robust statutory rights geared to meet their unique needs and conducive societal conditions needed for them to flourish and to truly become co-equal participants in all facets of life.”

The case concerned a person with a chronic neurological condition resulting in Writer’s Cramp, or extreme difficulty in writing. He was denied a scribe for the Civil Services Exam by the UPSC, on the ground that he did not come within the definition of person with benchmark disability (40% or more of a specified disability).  The Court, in rejecting this stand, held that the petitioner was a person with disability and that provision of scribe to him came within the scope of reasonable accommodation.  The Court said ” … the accommodation which the law mandates is ‘reasonable’ because it has to be tailored to the requirements of each condition of disability. The expectations which every disabled person has are unique to the nature of the disability and the character of the impediments which are encountered as its consequence…”

In a detailed analysis of Indian and International disability law, the Court said that disability is a long-term condition which due to barriers in the environment hinders full and effective participation in society. Reasonable accommodation implies looking at the specific disabling condition and providing amenities in accordance. Examples: Blind persons need screen reading software to work on the computer, hearing impaired need sign language interpreters. Reasonable accommodation extends to all persons with disabilities, not just those with benchmark disabilities.

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) argued that as per the CSE Rules 2018 a scribe could only be provided to blind candidates and candidates with locomotor disability and cerebral palsy which resulted in an impairment of function by at least 40%. The Supreme Court observed that the UPSC’s response was contrary to the reply filed by the nodal ministry in India for implementing the provisions of the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD Act). The law had been enacted after India became a party to the UNCRPD in 2007.

The reply of the ministry recognised that there may be certain medical conditions not identified as disability per se but which have a detrimental impact on the writing capability of a person. Therefore, the onus was on the examining body, in consultation with India’s health ministry, to consider such cases for grant of scribe, extra time or other facilities, on production of a medical certificate. 

In this context, the Supreme Court noted that a ‘person with disability’ under the RPwD Act includes individuals with a ‘long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with various barriers, hinders full and effective participation in society equally with others’. The RPwD separately defines persons with ‘benchmark disability’ as those who are certified to have not less than 40% of the disabilities specified in the Schedule of the RPwD Act.

The Supreme Court opined that the higher threshold of benchmark disability could not be imposed to deny equal access to persons with disabilities contrary to the ethos of non-discrimination enshrined in the fundamental rights chapter of the Indian Constitution

The judgement clarified that the scheme of the RPwD Act imposed a benchmark disability as a precondition only for access to specific entitlements such as affirmative action as under Sections 32 and 34 of Chapter VI. In other words, the absence of benchmark disability could not be used to deny other forms of reasonable accommodation to persons with disabilities. 

The bench relied upon the landmark precedent of Jeeja Ghosh v. Union of India wherein it was held that equality is not only limited to preventing discrimination but also embraces a wide ambit of positive rights including reasonable accommodation. The principle of reasonable accommodation, the Court observed in Vikash Kumar, is a facet of substantive equality set out in General Comment 6 of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Court also held that the denial of reasonable accommodation constitutes disability-based discrimination under Section 3 of the RPwD Act. The object of the provision is to ensure that persons with disabilities can overcome insidious barriers of exclusion without the imposition of a disproportionate burden. In this context, the state has an obligation to develop an appropriate environment guaranteeing equality of opportunity to persons with disabilities. Reasonable accommodation, such as the facility of a scribe, is therefore an enabling instrument for securing substantive equality.

Further, the state had raised a concern that the provision of a scribe could offer an undue advantage to persons with disabilities. In response, the Court pointed to  the absence of empirical data to hold that this argument of misuse was unsubstantiated. The unfounded suspicion, the Court also remarked, in fact perpetuated the stereotype that persons with disabilities have to resort to state largesse due to their inability to compete on a level-playing field.

Finally, the Court emphasised that it expected the government to consult persons with disabilities in a bid to democratise policy making. It remains to be seen whether such an endeavour results in lasting impact.

Read the judgement embedded below in Civil Appeal No. 273 of 2021 Special Leave Petition (C) No. 1882 of 2021 titled as Vikash Kumar v. Union Public Service Commission & Others. 

Dowload the judgement  [418 KB]

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Supreme Court - Rights of persons with disabilities are not be diluted but limiting them to only those with benchmark disabilities

Court: The Supreme Court of India

Bench: Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Justice ,  A.S. Bopanna, Justice

Case No:  Civil Appeal No. 7000 of 2021 (Arising Out of SLP (C) No.18591 of 2021)

Case Title: Avni Prakash Vs. National Testing Agency (NTA) & Ors.

Date of  Order: 23 November 2021

Law//Act: The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, 

Judgement Authored by : Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Justice


The Supreme Court (SC) has cautioned that the Rights of persons with disabilities should not be curtailed by the application of a higher threshold prescribed only for ‘persons with benchmark disabilities’.

The bench pronounced its verdict on a plea by a female National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2021 candidate with dysgraphia (which is a learning disability that inhibits the ability to write), who was agrreived by the denial  of an additional one hour’s time for attempting the paper by the examination centre. She had sought that she either be allowed to sit for a re-examination or be reasonably or proportionately compensated by way of grace marks or elimination of negative marking or otherwise.

Case in brief:

The appellant is a person with dysgraphia- a specified disability listed in 2(a) of the Schedule to the RPwD Act. Her disability has been assessed as 40 percent permanent disability-thus falls within the definition of  a person with a benchmark disability under Section 2(r) of the RPwD Act. She was denied the compensatory time while appearing for the NEET Examination conducted by the NTA. 

The Bench at SC framed issue as to whether the appellant was entitled to an hour’s worth of compensatory time owing to her PwD status under the NEET Bulletin 2021 and the Guidelines for Written Examination issued by the Union Ministry of Social Empowerment and Justice issued on August 29, 2018.

While the matter was heard at the Mumbai High Court, the National Testing Agency (NTA), had, on October 11, 2021 demanded the procurement of a medical certificate as per the format contained in Appendix VIII-A and from a designated centre specified in Appendix VIII-B of the Regulations on Graduate Medical Education (Amendment), 2019, in order to claim the one-hour compensatory time. 

However, the Supreme Court observed that it is evident from the format prescribed under Appendix VIII-A that it cannot be issued at a stage before the declaration of results, and will only be considered for admission to the medical courses. The bench held that:

“Para 5.4(b) of the NEET Bulletin 2021 (extracted above) indicates that the appellant was entitled to compensatory time of one hour for an examination of three hours, irrespective of her reliance on a scribe. Para 5.3 indicates that the requirement of a certificate in Appendix VIII-A applies after the results are declared.”

The court clarified that the Right to Inclusive Education is a right enforceable at the examination stage (as per Section 17(i) under Chapter III), distinct from the rights that apply during the admission stage (as per Section 32 under Chapter VI).

The distinction between Person with Disability (PwD) and Person with Benchmark Disability (PwBD)

The court then went on to establish the distinction between PwD and PwBD under the RPwD Act. It Reffering to its decision in Vikash Kumar vs. Union Public Service Commission, in which SC hgad rejected the submission that only PwBD candidates can be provided with the facility of a scribe and held that the petitioner was entitled to reasonable accommodation even if he did not suffer from a benchmark disability.

“These rights and entitlements which are conferred upon PwD cannot be constricted by adopting the definition of benchmark disability as a condition precedent or as a condition of eligibility for availing of the rights. Benchmark disability, as defined in Section 2(r), is specifically used in the context of Chapter VI.  Undoubtedly, to seek admission to an institution of higher education under the 5 per cent quota, the candidate must, in terms of Section 32(1)10, fulfil the description of a PwBD. But equally, where the statute has conferred rights and entitlements on PwD, which is wider in its canvass than a benchmark disability, such rights cannot be abrogated or diluted by reading into them the notion of benchmark disability” clarifid the SC.

Hence, the standards of benchmark disabilities shall apply in situations where admission is sought into an institution of higher education under the five percent quota, in accordance with Section 32(1). However, the right to avail reasonable accommodation cannot be subjected to the same scrutiny.

Thus, the Right to Inclusive Education is a right enforceable at the examination stage (Section 17(i) under Chapter III), distinct from the rights that apply during the admission stage (Section 32 under Chapter VI).

The Court emphasised on the provisions envisaged under the RPwD Act with regard to inclusive education for PwD in Chapter III. Section 17 of Chapter III lays down specific measures to promote and facilitate inclusive education for students with disabilities. Among other inclusive measures, sub-section (i) provides for the duty of the State to make suitable modifications in the curriculum and the examination system to meet the needs of students with disabilities. This duty can be fulfilled by providing extra time for the completion of examination papers and/or the facility of a scribe. Section 18 provides that the government and local authorities are duty-bound to take measures to promote, protect and ensure participation of PwD in adult education and continuing education programmes on an equal footing with others.

The provision for reservation in Chapter VI specifically directed towards PwBD students is different from the provisions in Chapter III for PwD students. Essentially, it can be concluded that PwD encompasses a wider group, of which PwBD is a sub-set. The principle of reasonable accommodation is at the heart of the right to inclusive education, premised on equality and non-discrimination. The denial of reasonable accommodation to a PwD would certainly result in discrimination, especially when the same is denied by applying stricter thresholds meant only for PwBD.

The Court, therefore, held that there was a gross miscarriage of justice in this case by the High Court directing the appellant, who is aggrieved by the denial of a compensatory one hour, to seek a certificate in terms of Appendix VIII-A, on the basis of a statement made by the counsel for the NTA. The injustice meted out to the appellant occurred, noted the apex court, because of (i) a vague and imprecisely defined NEET Bulletin 2021, and (ii) the absence of adequate training to the second respondent which was allotted as the appellant’s centre.

Court’s directions

The bench, in accordance with the decision in National Testing Agency vs. Vaishnavi Vijay Bhopale, ruled out the possibility of conducting a re-examination for the appellant owing to impracticability and uncertainty due to delay in results. However, the Court emphasised that the NTA cannot shirk or abrogate its responsibility to rectify the injustice which had been caused to the appellant, and must therefore consider extrapolation of marks or grant compensatory marks or adopt a ‘no negative scheme’, after applying their mind, ruled the Court.

The principle of reasonable accommodation is at the heart of the right to inclusive education, premised on equality and non-discrimination.

The court further directed the NTA to strictly ensure that the provisions which are made at the NEET in terms of the rights and entitlements available under the RPwD Act are clarified in the NEET Bulletin by removing ambiguity. It observed that, “Facilities which are provided by the law to PwD shall not be constricted by reading in the higher threshold prescribed for PwBD.”

Read the judgement below: