Showing posts with label Mumbai High Court. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mumbai High Court. Show all posts

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Mumbai High Court declares BMC circular illegal, directs payment of full salaries to disabled employees for absence during pandemic period

Dear Colleagues,

Please refer to my earlier post  'NAB takes the BMC to High Court for denying full salaries to disabled and older employees during lockdown' detailing the public interest litigation filed by the National Association of Blind after the civic body did not pay full salaries to the 268 visually impaired employees.

Accepting the petitioner's contention that the country’s richest civic body had shown “its inhuman an insensitive face, much to the detriment and prejudice of its physically disabled employees” the Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni of the Bombay High Court, in their 63-page judgment passed on 28th October 2020 (Wednesday),  has held that the BMC's circular and its action of withholding pay during the pandemic were illegal and said, "we direct the corporation to ensure that none of the physically disabled employees, who did not report for duty during the pandemic are denied pay benefits “which they would have been entitled to, but for the pandemic and had they reported for duty”.

On 27 March 2020, the central government through an OM issued by DoPT exempted all government employees with disabilities from reporting for duty during the lockdown saying, "“All ministries and departments are advised to exempt persons with disabilities (PwD) from duties while drawing up roster of employees required to attend to essential services”.

Similar directions were issued by the Maharashtra government on 21 April 2020 exempting disabled employees from attending offices and that the period of absence may be treated as Special Leave without loss of pay. 

On May 2, the BMC announced that its disabled staffers were entitled to a special leave without loss of pay. But, on May 26, it issued a circular  that it was not a special leave, but a permissible leave which requires sanction and involves a pay loss. The circular directed that its disabled employees be given leave which is permitted under the Municipal Services Act. Under this, if these employees have used up sanctioned leaves, they will not get a salary if they don’t report for work. The BMC has nearly 1,150 physically disabled employees, including 278 visually impaired.

The judges noted that while the BMC initially favoured exemption, a “change of mindset resulted in revision of its earlier decision” and it was not backed by tangible evidence of physically disabled employees not facing inconvenience or discomfort while travelling to their workplace or “reference to any incident that could act as a trigger for such decision”. “If the civic body was not inclined to offer financial benefits, like pay physically disabled employees who do not report for duty, it was its duty as a model employer to make special arrangements for public transport or special measures to ensure hassle-free travel for these employees...”

The judges added that the right to free access is a right guaranteed by the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016. Although it casts a duty on the state, nothing prevented the BMC as local authority from taking suitable measures for its physically disabled employees.

The judges said the BMC’s ‘flip-flop’ has intrigued them and there was no explanation for it. “This volte-face deserves to be viewed seriously and disapproved strongly.” 

The court said, “The circular requires judicial intervention. The circular and its action of withholding pay is held illegal.”  The Bench said that the payment must be made in two instalments, the first must be paid before Diwali and the second must be paid within 45 days from the date of the first instalment.

Watch out this space for the PDF Judgement soon...

Monday, September 28, 2020

NAB takes the BMC to High Court for denying full salaries to disabled and older employees during lockdown

Dear Colleagues,

National Association of Blind (NAB) Mumbai has dragged the Brihanmumbai Muncipal Corporation (BMC) to the Mumbai High Court in a public interest litigation (PIL) which seeks payment of full salaries to 278 visually impaired BMC employees for the period when the lockdown was implemented in its strictest form – March 23 to June 30.  

An affidavit opposing the PIL signed by Vishwanath Jadhav, joint chief personnel officer of the establishment section of the BMC’s General Administration Department,  says that paying full salaries to these employees will adversely affect its finances.

It was learnt that the BMC denied full salaries for the strictest lockdown phase to not just its visually-impaired employees, but also to the physically disabled and those above 55 years of age, who were exempted from attendance on health grounds, the affidavit indicates. 

The affidavit, defending BMC’s decision to not pay full salaries to the visually impaired employees, refers to the money “the BMC may have to pay” to the physically disabled as well.

It says, “If these categories of employees are granted special leave without loss of pay, the respondent corporation will be required to pay approximately Rs12.22 crore (Rs 2.75 crore for visually impaired employees and Rs 9.47crore for other disabled employees).”

The next sentence specifies another category of employees which may seek parity from the BMC if the court were to ask it to pay salaries for the same period to the disabled employees.

The affidavit says, “Similarly, the corporation has granted relaxation in attending duties to approximately 283 employees beyond 55 years of age having health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure and dialysis (for kidney ailments). Similar demand will be raised by these categories of employees, even though they are not eligible, and if they are to be treated according to the same principle, then the corporation will have to pay approximately Rs 422.59 crore, which will adversely affect its financial condition.”

Appearing for the NAB, advocate Uday Warunjikar,  submitted before the court that BMC had nullified its liability to the visually impaired employees with retrospective effect, as its directive issued in March, only exempted these employees from attending offices. However, a directive issued on May 26, 2020 said that the relevant period will be treated as “permissible leave.”

He said that while he had details of only one employee at the time of filing the PIL, the NAB had managed to get details of more than 25 employees to show that it wasn’t just the salary for the relevant period, which was affected, but the situation continues as the BMC was recovering “arrears” of salary deductions from them, forcing them to work on zero or extremely low pay.

The PIL cites the directives of the state government as well as the Centre since March 2020 to show that they had exempted disabled employees from attendance and one such directive said that they be treated on “leave without loss of pay.”

Senior Advocate BV Bukhari, appearing for the BMC, submitted that the BMC was not bound by the resolutions or notifications of the state or the Central government, as it was a local self-government body.

He said that the BMC was not only following the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, but, in fact, was doing more than what other governments were doing.

The court, however, questioned the BMC’s assertion that it was not bound to follow the notifications of the state or the Central government, saying it was doing so in certain other aspects related to the pandemic. 

The bench has reserved its judgement on the PIL. 

Update (29 Oct 2020):

....... Read subsequent post on the PIL judgement here:  "Mumbai High Court declares BMC circular illegal, directs payment of full salaries for absence during pandemic period"


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Physically Challenged Versus Logically Challenged

Dear Colleagues,

There is an inherent bias in the executive when it comes to giving equal opportunities to those living with disabilities in employment despite the tall claims on paper by the Government and harshest judgements from the Courts criticizing the executive and the government. Now whether it is born out of age old mis-beliefs, myths and resultant negative attitudes towards the disabled or an utter lack of awareness about the possibilities and potential of those living with disabilities - the result is insurmountable barriers for disabled people on every step of their lives.

A committee of High Court Judges decides that those with vision impairments and those with hearing and speech impairment can not function as Judges (Blind/deaf can't be judges, say govt and HC; PIL questions it, the Babus decide what a person with disabilities is capable of, without even knowing a, b, c of disability! And these decisions are taken in solo without involving those with disabilities or their organisations. 

We recently saw certain candidates with disabilities who passed the UPSC's Civil Services Examination way back in 2007 -08 continue to await allocation of posts! The principles of natural justice particularly in a democratic set up as ours, demand that an opportunity of being heard be given to those affected by the proposed action. This is amazing way of functioning displayed by the Indian bureaucracy where the bureaucrats and not the law decides whom they want to allow in their gang!

Section 32 and the List of Identified Jobs


The List of Identified Jobs for persons with disabilities which had been prepared by the Babus with some experts from field also on the panel has done more harm than good for persons with disabilities of this country.  The list has been used to deserving people out by State governments from several key posts. The successive committees of babus have not allowed the stakeholders to even know what was added or removed in the successive list of jobs published through gazettes. Each time a list of published, the earlier was removed from the website, without even explaining what new post(s) have been added or deleted from the list and the basis for the same! And this business of identified jobs has been in business since 1989 even before the disabilities Act came in to force.

The list doesn't seem to have applicability in all the states and union territories since so many states (read babus) have published their own selective lists of posts (read... unimportant posts) jobs, keeping the posts to the minimum that could be held by  persons with disabilities. Certain states and Ministries have been on an exemption seeking spree under the proviso of Section 33 of the Disabilities Act. For instance the post of Judge has been identified in the Central List whereas states like West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh seems to have taken regressive steps by obtaining exemptions of judicial posts from the purview of section 33 (reservation in favour of persons with disabilities particularly against the candidates with visual and hearing and speech disabilities.)  

3% reservation in promotion under Section 33 

Similarly, by twisting the interpretation of section 33, the Babus have for long denied the 3% reservation in promotional posts to employees with disabilities particularly in group A and B posts citing various untenable reasons.  


Now the Bombay High Court has dealt with the issue in a PIL filed by an NGO - National Confederation for Development of Disabled. The petition pointed out that the ratio of percentage of direct IAS to IAS by promotion or election was 67% : 33% in Maharashtra state at present. Thus effectively, out of 100 new posts, 67 were being filled by people who have been directly recruited in the IAS category and 33 posts were filled by state civil service officers.  Thus the reservation in 33% promotional posts was being denied to the disabled officers from State Civil Services (for the impugned executive orders provide for no reservation in promotion in Group A and B posts!).

In a remarkable judgement the Division Bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha has on 04 December 2013, directed that the rule be applied to the promotion of officers, who were recruited through the disabled quota i.e.  now reservation would be applicable on all the 100 posts.   
The court held that it is clear  that  reservation has  to  be computed with  reference to  total  number of vacancies in the cadre strength and, therefore, no distinction can be made between the posts to be filled in by direct recruitment and by promotion.  Total number of vacancies in the cadre strength would include the vacancies to be filled in by nomination and vacancies to be filled in by promotion. 

Download a copy of the Judgement

Bombay High Court judgement in PIL No. 106 of 2010  titled National Confederation for Development of Disabled and another versus Union of India and ors. or read the embedded PDF Judgement below:






Manner of computation of reservation under Section 33


The manner of arriving at or computing 3% reservation in various posts has not been spelled out in the Act. and thus in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 73 of the Act, the government (read babus) used their discretion to spell it out through executive orders (read DoPT Memos) thereby restricting the reservation benefits to the minimum particularly in Gp A and B posts.  

For Eg. Office Memorandum (OM) dated 29.12.2005, issued by the Department of Personnel & Training, inter alia provides a system for ensuring proper implementation of the provisions of the Act for the persons with disabilities, wherein the 3% reservation for the disabled persons was being computed by taking into account the total number of vacancies arising in Group C and D posts for being filled by direct recruitment in a recruitment year both in the identified and non-identified posts under the establishment. Similarly, all vacancies in promotion quota shall be taken into account while computing reservation in promotion in Group C and Group D posts. 


However, interestingly, when it came to Gp A and B posts, it was specifically restricted to be computed on the basis of vacancies occurring in direct recruitment quota in all the identified Group A posts in the establishment.


Justification to such a restriction given was that since the reservation for Group C and D posts is being calculated on the basis of the vacancies in identified as well as unidentified posts prior to the Act came into existence and in view of the provisions of Section 72 of the Act (Act to be in addition to and not in derogation of any other law), continued in the same way, however, reservation for Group A and B posts is  to be calculated on the basis of the vacancies for identified posts as per the provisions of the Act.


The court thus decided that the modus of computation of reservation on the basis of total number of vacancies (both inclusive of identified and unidentified) in the cadre strength will uniformly apply to Group A, B, C and D and not just Gp C and D). Supreme Court Judgement dated 08 October 2013 in Union of India  Versus National Federation of Blind (Civil Appeal 9096 of 2013) (click on link for judgement).


Accordingly, the DoPT  issued a revision on 03rd December 2013 to its Memo dated 29.12.2005 (click link for a copy)


The way ahead


The tendency of the Government (read Babus) is to find ways to block the entry of the disabled into the mainstream of employment. This undeclared blockade has no direct link with abilities of persons with disabilities and indicates a greater malady that exists in our system. This can only be tackled by a sincere attempt to raise awareness of all government employees from the top order to the lowest about the capabilities of the disabled and also supporting employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodation and equal opportunities to work and prove their worth. At the same time, the executive has to be interpret the benevolent provisions of the Act so as to give effect to the will of the legislature and the mandate of international convention called UN CRPD. 

One out of box idea is to scrap the Identification List  and  the present system of effecting reservation on identified posts. Let all posts be open for persons with disabilities with only condition that each person showcases how he/she will perform the functions of that post. Those competing on merit be not adjusted against reserved vacancies (policy exists but seldom implemented thereby defeating the intent of legislature of minimum 3% reservation). The government on their part must provide reasonable accommodation and an enabling environment to the employees with disabilities. I am sure this will work out and we must give it a try.

Here are some stories on such undeclared blockade and court intervention that recently made headlines in Indian Express and Times of India.

Civils: Centre, state told to implement quota rules for disabled 

Aamir Khan, Indian Express, Mumbai, Thu Dec 05 2013, 11:58 hrs


The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the state and Union governments to implement the rules of reservation for differently-abled candidates in civil services. The court also said the rules would apply during promotions.


The court was hearing a PIL filed by the National Confederation for Development of Disabled, stating that the People With Disabilities (PWD) Act was being violated. It sought the implementation of the rule, which provides 3 per cent reservation to disabled people in civil services recruitment. Directing the state and the Union government to implement the rule, the division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha directed that the rule be applied to the promotion of officers, who were recruited through the disabled quota.


The petition said the ratio of percentage of direct IAS to IAS by promotion or election was 67%:33% in the state at present. "Therefore, out of 100 new posts, 67 are filled by people who have been directly recruited in the IAS category and 33 posts are filled by state civil service officers. As per the PWD Act, three per cent of the posts in the IAS are reserved for such class of people. Thus, reservation should be applicable to all the 100 posts," the petition stated. It also contended that the quota for PWD had not been filled for 15 years. According to the Constitution, the authorities are under obligation to apply the provisions of the PWD Act. Granting relief to the petitioners, the HC disposed of the petition.


Source: Indian Express


Disabled people clear UPSC, but wait for service allocation

Rema Nagarajan, TNN | Dec 2, 2013, 04.55 AM IST

MUMBAI: Several persons with disabilities (PWDs) who crack one of the toughest exams in the country and get selected for the civil services are routinely rejected with the government claiming there is no suitable service for them. 

Source: Times of India, 02nd Dec 2013
They are good enough to overcome their disability and get selected for the civil services after clearing two levels of exams and the interview, but the Department of Personnel and Training, the allocating authority, rejects them and cancels their candidature.
In the last two years alone, out of 67 such candidates who got selected, 11 are still waiting to be allocated services. Many selected PWDs are allocated lower services  than their ranking merits, on the plea that the nature of their disability prevents them doing the job in most services.

So how do babus sitting in offices decide what candidates with varying levels and kinds of disabilities are capable of? The answer lies in a totally arbitrary list called "list of services identified suitable for physically disabled category along with physical requirements and functional classification" published in the gazette. It lays down what service a successful candidate with disability can get. For instance, under the category of locomotor disability, if the disability affects both hands or arms, you can get into the most sought-after Indian Administrative Service (IAS) but you would not be eligible for any of the other 23 services.

Again, the Delhi Andaman and Nicobar Islands Police Service (DANIPS) is open to those with one leg affected or whose hearing is impaired. However, there is no place for people with these or any other disability in either the Pondicherry Police Service or the Indian Police Service (IPS). How different can the job be in different police services? In an age of economic crime and cybercrime, will the police service be limited to physical fitness or brawn and not brains?

All accounts services, the Indian P&T Accounts & Finance Service, Gr.A, Indian Civil Accounts Service, Gr. A and Indian Railway Accounts Service are open someone with one arm (OA) or one leg (OL) affected or with one arm and one leg affected (OAL) and to those with both legs affected (BL). However the Indian Audit & Accounts Service Gr. A alone is not open to persons with both legs affected. Why is only this accounts service not open to people with both legs affected? Nobody seems to know.

"My disability says both legs affected. But I use crutches and can do all jobs. However, most services are closed to me because some officials who have never met me decided that if both legs are affected, I must be immobile or unable to do most jobs. It is totally unfair. This identification of service has to be done away with. Let them select us, meet us, see what we can do and allocate us services accordingly and by our ranks," says a candidate who cleared the exam earlier but will be appearing again for the civil service exam on Monday, hopeful of getting in again through the 3% quota in all services for PWDs mandated by the Disability Act 1995.

The identification of service ought to be abolished as it is discriminatory under the Disability Act and under international conventions signed by India on ensuring equal rights to the disabled, pointed out yet another PWD. 

Officials in the DoPT did not comment despite several attempts to get their version."Frankly, I am appalled that nine years after this issue was first brought to light, it remains unresolved, that too, against the express orders and directions of the Prime Minister. If the country, the government and the prime minister's office in particular wish to demonstrate their true commitment towards protecting the rights of India's disabled citizens, they ought to resolve this issue once and for all," said Javed Abidi of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP). He added that in protest against such apathy, NCPEDP will not take part in the "charade" of celebrating World Disability Day on December 3 when "speeches would be delivered, advertisements issued, and some more false promises made".


News Source: Times of India


Monday, August 5, 2013

Disabilities can't be restricted to those in the PwD Act 1995

Dear Colleages,

The present medical model of disability in the Disability Act and as understood by the Courts has some serious shortcomings. The etiology based labels or medical condition based labels are counterproductive so far as the constitutional mandate of ensuring equality and non-discrimination is concerned. The benefits of schemes meant for social justice can not be just restricted to persons whose condition or type of disability reflects in the law.

What is needed is to look at the restrictions that the person faces in the community due to the particular condition. The forumula that Amended Americans with Disabilities Act (came in to force on Jan 01, 2009) adopts is quite reasonable. It accepts you for the disability benefits if :

(a) If you have a physical or mental problem that substantially limits one or more of your “major life activities”.
(b) You have a record of having had such a problem in the past.
(c) Other people think you have such a problem, even if you do not actually have it.

What are major life activities

Some of the “major life activities” covered by ADA include but are not limited to caring for yourself, doing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.

The amended ADA has made some major changes to the way the definition of disability had been interpreted under ADA in the past. The 2008 Amendments Act includes major body functions, including but not limited to functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, brain and nervous system, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive systems. These changes can help people with cancer, because in the past they often had a hard time meeting the definition of disability.

Bombay High Court sets a precedent

The Bombay HC has in the below case issued notices to the Coordination Committees  - both Centre and State - established under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal opportunities, proteciton of Rights and full participation) Act 1995 Central Govt.to respond to a similar case wherein the petitioner Vinod Tambe - a personal rehabilitated after cancer  -   has sought benefits available to persons with disabities under the Act.

Hon'ble Chief Justice Mohit Shah has been known to be a very sensitive judge so far as  matter related to those with disabilities and marginalised segments are concerned. He has been known to take suo moto notice of matters affecting the rights of disabled while he was with Gujarat High Court and championed the cause of persons with disabilities.

Disabilities Act not superseding but supplementing

The Maharasthra Government had through a circular issued by the director of employment exchange on November 21, 1983, instructed all district employment officers to register cancer-cured persons as handicapped persons. And the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 being a beneficial legislation only supplemented what existed before and by its enactment, no pre-existing right  could be taken away by the state in such a blatant manner. Therefore, even if if caner-cured is not included in the medical definitions of the Disabilities Act, the said category continues to get the benefits, technically.

Other unreported cases

I personally know of a case in Valsad, Gujarat where a gentleman met with a serious car accident during which a metal rod of the car entered his body from a little lower than the urinal part on the front side of the body and came out from the spinal cord i.e. back side of his body thereby tearing his body and damaging the sphincter, anus, rectum and the spinal cord. He was somehow saved but with a colostomy. 

The Disability Certificate granted by Civil Hospital Valsad says he is a case of "Permanent Colostomy  + L1 Vertebra Fracture (Old)" and degree of disability is quanitified as "66%" .  

He sought benefits of Tax Concession to buy an adapted car available to persons with Disabiliites. However, the Government authorities refused him the benefit saying that he is not a person with disability according to the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 since he is not suffering from blindness, low vision, mental illness, mental retardation, hearing impairment or locomotor impairment! This is despite that fact that the gentleman has no voluntary control over his stools and has problems in independent mobility.

Lessons

Even the draft of the new Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2012 which is to replace the existing Disabilities Act 1995 doesn't address this issue and still revolves around the etiology and types of disabilities without looking at the effect of the disability on the normal living of the person affected and the accommodations required by the person to be able to functional on an equal basis with others to ensure his fundamental right of equality to him. We need to move beyond types of impairment to the effects of the impairment the person faces in terms of disabilities while interacting with the social and environmental barriers and derive the accommodations that the person may require. 

The amended Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) even recognises a disability which may not be actually there but may be perceived by others in addition to the major body functions, including but not limited to functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, brain and nervous system, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive systems. 

We seriously need to consider this before the present bill gets passed in the present form. Below is the news coverage on Bombay High Court admitting a case of  person recovered from Cancer with residual impairments/ disabilities.

TREAT CANCER - CURED AS DISABLED: PLEA IN COURT
Rosy Sequeira, TNN | Aug 5, 2013, 01.40 AM IST

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court has sought responses from the central and state coordination committees for persons with disabilities after a teacher cured of cancer approached it, demanding the same rights granted to disabled people. 

Solapur resident Vinod Tambe was diagnosed with blood cancer in 1977 at the age of seven. He was treated at Tata Memorial Hospital, and on March 16, 2005, issued a certificate by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Central Hospital in Solapur declaring him "cancer-cured handicap". Still, in spite of this, Tambe found that he was not allowed to access facilities for handicapped people. The primary school teacher subsequently moved court. 

Tambe is seeking the benefits accorded to disabled persons in healthcare, public transportation, education and employment. "The government should be considerate towards someone who has gone to the doorsteps of death and returned. Even though I am cured I still go through body pain. I am not like a normal person," he said. 

Tambe's advocate M S Karnik, during a hearing on July 12, pointed out that a circular issued by the director of employment exchange on November 21, 1983, instructed all district employment officers to register cancer-cured persons as handicapped persons. 

But the Maharashtra government maintains that the circular was superseded by the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. The definitions of disabilities listed in the act do not cover Tambe's case, it says. 

Karnik argued that the authorities erred in applying a narrow definition of the term "disability": "A person who has suffered from blood cancer even after getting cured does suffer from disabilities arising from weakness of the bones, joints or muscles, leading to substantial restriction of the movement of limbs." Karnik added that Tambe's case can be classified under locomotor disability, which is recognised under the 1995 act. 

The advocate contended that various additional forms of disabilities should be covered under the act and the Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2012. Because of the current narrow definitions, he said, many people are getting deprived of disability benefits. 

Agreeing with him, a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha gave the instance of the rare genetic disorder Hunter's syndrome. In this, an enzyme the body needs is missing or insufficiently generated, the judges said, leading to progressive damage, affecting development and organ function. 

Karnik said among the responsibilities of the central and state coordination committees is to continuously evolve policies to solve the problems faced by disabled people and to advise Central and state governments. The judges issued notices to the committees and posted the next hearing on August 7.

MAKING A CASE

THE PETITIONER

Vinod Tambe was diagnosed with blood cancer in 1977 and treated at Tata Memorial Hospital. In 2005, he was issued a certificate by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Central Hospital in Solapur declaring him 'cancer-cured handicap'

THE PLEA

Cancer survivors should be granted the rights given to disabled people

Disabilities Under Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2012

1) Autism spectrum disorder 2) Blindness 3) Cerebral palsy 4) Chronic neurological conditions 5) Deafblindness 6) Haemophilia 7) Hearing impairment 8) Intellectual disability 9) Leprosy cured 10) Locomotor disability 11) Low vision 12) Mental illness 13) Muscular dystrophy 14) Multiple sclerosis 15) Specific learning disability 16) Speech and language disability 17) Thalassaemia 18) Multiple disabilities (two or more disabilities listed as one to 17 occurring in a person at the same time)

Disabilities Defined Under Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995

1) Blindness 2) Low vision 3) Leprosy-cured 4) Hearing impairment 5) Locomotor disability 6) Mental retardation 7) Mental illness

Times View


The government should treat such cases with utmost sympathy instead of going purely by the rulebook. And, if need be, rules should change to provide relief to people in distress. The court has done the right thing by indicating there may be a need to take a fresh look at the law.





Monday, January 30, 2012

Bombay Hight Courts directs Railways to be sensitive to disabled

Dear Friends,

Our disability law is almost 16 years old now. What it mandated to ensure accessibility for the disabled in public spaces including modes of transport such as road, Rail and airways, these modes continues to ignore the rights of the disabled people. There is some improvement in the road transport in few pockets such as a Metro Rail in Delhi or Low Floor buses with corresponding road infrastructure in BRT  dedicated corridors. However, largely, the railways has been most insensitive to the needs of the disabled. It impacts the persons with disabilities all the more aggressively since rail happens to be the most economic option for long distance travel in India. Knowing well their obligation under the disability law, the railways has taken resolutions/ passed memorandums and instructions. However, on ground there is hardly any change and the worst is the maintenance track record. One can find most unhygienic toilets on the Indian Railways - in both coaches and at platforms. This is just not managed professionally.  Here is some advice from the Mumbai High Court and I can tell you, there are several of such public interest litigation in various other High Courts in India with Railways only busy defending these cases in the Courts at the Exchequer expenses. Can  it deploy its resources to promote accessibility and good hygiene at Railway properties rather than paying hefty professional fee to Standing Counsels to defend the petitions against it? I am sure the former would be easier, cost effective and in the larger interest.

News coverage




Asking the Railways to be sensitive towards the needs of the differently-abled, the Bombay high court on Monday asked the body to address two primary issues immediately - disabled-friendly toilets and ticket windows of a lower level to make it accessible for a wheelchair-bound person.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by India Centre for Human Rights, an NGO, in 2007, seeking easy access for differently-abled persons to the railway platforms in the city.

A division bench of chief justices Mohit Shah and Roshan Dalvi has asked the court-appointed committee to devise a plan for implementing the 1998 government resolution which recommends establishing of disabled-friendly toilets and lower level ticket window at all city stations.
In October 2011, the HC had appointed a committee - one from the petitioner NGO, an officer from the accounts department, one engineer and three officers each from the Western and Central Railways - to come up with solutions for problems faced by the differently-abled.
“Without telling you (Railways), your officers should address the issues. You know your own recommendation since 1998. Why should someone else point it out to you?” asked chief justice.
The 1998 GR was pointed out by Kranti LC, advocate for the NGO, saying that the Railways have not been taking the initiative for making the platforms disabled-friendly.
Kranti pointed out that some of their NGO’s members had taken a survey of 104 stations. “Only 3% of toilets are accessible to the disabled,” he said. He further pointed out that in their July 2011 affidavit, they had suggested that slopes for access to platforms were too steep at several stations and this had not been rectified.
Beni Chatterji and Suresh Kumar - counsels for the Western railways - said that the NGO should point out the deficiencies to them and they would then take necessary actions. To this, chief justice frowned and said, “Why should anyone point out deficiencies? That’s why we have constituted the committee. What have you been doing?”
Chatterji assured the court that this time they would definitely look into their grievances. The chief justice suggested that Chatterji remain present in the next committee meeting.
Directing the railways to give priorities to the issues of toilets and lower ticket windows, the court has asked the railways to submit an Action Taken Report on the next date of hearing on March 1. 

Source: DNA  India

Friday, September 16, 2011

Maharashtra Govt assures barrier free environment before the High Court

Dear Friends,

 In response to a PIL, Govt. of Maharashtra has promised before the Nagpur Bench of the Mumbai High Court that it will make all the public buildings barrier free. Here are more details from Times of India news report:


NAGPUR: Maharashtra government on Thursday assured the high court here that it would immediately remove all barriers from public buildings to allow smooth movement to physically challenged and the elderly.

A division bench of justices Sharad Bobde and MN Gilani asked the government to file a reply informing about efforts taken in this regard in two weeks and also to furnish details regarding expenditure of Rs 7.60 crore funds released by the Centre for every state for welfare of handicapped and senior citizens. These funds were allocated in October last year for construction of hand rails and ramps in government buildings that are frequently used by people.

The court further directed the state to constitute a coordination committee having politicians and bureaucrats for welfare of such citizens. When the additional government pleader Bharti Dangre stated it might be in existence, the judges tersely asked the government to then "wake up" its members. The bench was hearing a plea filed by a city-based disabled scientist PN Andhare through his counsel Trupti Udeshi who is also physically handicapped.

The petitioner, who is 80% disabled, had filed the PIL through an NGO Indradhanu praying for compliance of Maharashtra government resolution of 2005 that mandated facilities for disabled. Secretary Prakash Sohoni is another petitioner. As per the duo, local authorities including the NMC should make efforts to implement by-laws, guidelines and measures to ensure a barrier-free built environment and non-discrimination in transport for the handicapped and senior citizens.

Even the banks and NMC failed to set up ramps or a guide rail for such persons. Pointing out several lacunae on the roads and footpaths, petitioners claimed that they were laid in such a way that it becomes difficult for both disabled and elderly to move. Encroachments on all footpaths created further obstacles to movement.

They contended that despite Lokayukta's recommendations, the master transportation plan for the city had no provisions for disabled. There was no monitoring system by which implementation of the Persons for Disabilities Act could be verified. Additionally, there was no grievance redressal mechanism by which these issues could be resolved. Citing reply to an RTI query, the petitioners claimed that NMC could not cite even a single government building where facilities were provided for the disabled.

During last hearing, the court asked the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) to conduct a survey of all the government/semi-government buildings in the city regarding such facilities. The IIA has been told to take help of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) town planning officer and submit report in four months.