Showing posts with label RPwD Act 2016. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RPwD Act 2016. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

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

 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).


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




Thursday, August 27, 2020

Kerala HC: Aided Private Education Institutions are 'State' and need to implement reservation for persons with disabilities [Judgement Included]

Dear Colleagues,

This judgement by a single bench of Kerala High Court at Ernakulam Bench sets a long pending issue to rest whether private aided education institutions come under the term "establishment" and are bound to follow the mandate of reservation of jobs. There were several writ petitions tagged to the present case with similar prayers. Many educational institutions seeking protection of 'minority' institution have been defying the law of the land regarding reservation in jobs for persons with disabilities despite being funded by the State claiming that they don't need to reserve or fill up seats by persons with disabilities as they are not 'state'. 

Petition was finally heard on 22 July 2020 and judgement delivered on 26 Aug 2020. The lead case has been WP(C).No.4753 OF 2020(T) Renjith J.V. Vs. State of Kerala and Others. Other petitions tagged were all from the year 2019 i.e. WP(C).224/2019(C), WP(C).1806/2019(A), WP(C).2800/2019(Y).  

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 only supplements and enhances the earlier reservation of 3% to now 4% and must be implemented in right earnest. There is a need to raise awareness, break the stereotypes and ensure that the private institutions are made aware of their legal responsibilities before they are sanctioned the government aids and grants.

Read the Judgement embedded below or Download Judgement. WP(C).No.4753 OF 2020(T) 


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Supreme Court of India asks compliance report of new RPwDAct 2016 in 12 weeks

Dear Colleagues,

Hon'ble Supreme Court of India has, in a major move to ensure speedy justice to persons with disabilities, has passed directions to implement the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 enforced by the Govt. of  India on 19 April 2017. In an interlocutory application filed by the petitioner in Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation vs. Union of India and Another, reported as (2014) 14 SCC 383, and on the application filed by intervener "Sambhavana Organisation",  the bench of  Justices Dipak Misra, A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar passed the directions to all the States and Union Territories to file compliance report within 12 weeks on the Act of 2016.

The Intervener, Sambhavana Organisation - a self help group of persons with disabilities had also filed an application citing examples of over seven Universities that were discriminating against persons with Blindness and Vision Impairments while filing up various teaching and non-teaching posts. The intervener also cited instances that UGC that funds these universities has not taken any action on implementation of the provisions of the Disabilities Act particularly the reservation in employment and successive employment notification systemically failed to give the rightful representation to the stakeholders with visual disabilities.

The bench observed, "The 2016 Act visualizes a sea change and conceives of actualization of the benefits engrafted under the said Act. The whole grammar of benefit has been changed for the better, and responsibilities of many have been encompassed. In such a situation, it becomes obligatory to scan the anatomy of significant provisions of the Act and see that the same are implemented. The laudable policy inherent within the framework of the legislation should be implemented and not become a distant dream. Immediacy of action is the warrant."

The bench referred to certain provisions to highlight the salient features of the Act of 2016 and stressed that more rights have been conferred on the disabled persons and more categories have been added. That apart, access to justice, free education, role of local authorities, National fund and the State fund for persons with disabilities have been created. The 2016 Act is noticeably a sea change in the perception and requires a march forward look with regard to the persons with disabilities and the role of the States, local authorities, educational institutions and the companies. The statute operates in a broad spectrum and the stress is laid to protect the rights and provide punishment for their violation. 

The Court directed, "When the law is so concerned for the disabled persons and makes provision, it is the obligation of the law executing authorities to give effect to the same in quite promptitude. The steps taken in this regard shall be concretely stated in the compliance report within the time stipulated. When we are directing the States, a duty is cast also on the States and its authorities to see that the statutory provisions that are enshrined and applicable to the cooperative societies, companies, firms, associations and establishments, institutions, are scrupulously followed. The State Governments shall take immediate steps to comply with the requirements of the 2016 Act and file the compliance report so that this Court can appreciate the progress made. The Bench directed the SC registry to send its order to chief secretaries of all states and directed them to take immediate steps to comply with its direction by 16 Aug 2017.

The Court directed that compliance report to be filed by the States shall be supplied to the learned counsel for the petitioner (Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation), learned counsel for the Union of India as well as to the learned counsel for the applicant/intervenor (Sambhavana Organisation) so that they can assist the Court.

A copy of the Order Dated 25 April 2017 in matter titled Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation vs. Union of India and Another can be accessed here.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What the 21 Disabilities Covered in the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act 2016

The number of recognized disability conditions was increased from 7 to 21 in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (hereinafter RPWD Act 2016). The RPWD Act 2016 (Act 49 of 2016) was enacted by the Indian Parliament to fulfill India’s obligation to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilitis (UNCRPD). It received the assent of Hon'ble President of India on 27th Dec 2016 and notified in Gazette of India on 28th Dec 2016. The Act came in to effect on 19 April 2017 vide a notification.

The new list of recognized disabilities added as an annexure to the Act includes three blood disorders, people of Short Stature, Acid Attack Survivors, Parkinson disease, Chronic neurological conditions, Multiple Sclerosis etc. 

Following are the 21 disabilities included in the RPWD Act 2016:
  1. Blindness
  2. Low-vision
  3. Leprosy Cured persons
  4. Hearing Impairment (deaf and hard of hearing)
  5. Locomotor Disability
  6. Dwarfism
  7. Intellectual Disability
  8. Mental Illness
  9. Autism Spectrum Disorder
  10. Cerebral Palsy
  11. Muscular Dystrophy
  12. Chronic Neurological conditions
  13. Specific Learning Disabilities
  14. Multiple Sclerosis
  15. Speech and Language disability
  16. Thalassemia
  17. Hemophilia
  18. Sickle Cell disease
  19. Multiple Disabilities including deaf-blindness
  20. Acid Attack victim
  21. Parkinson’s disease

Here is the Schedule to the RPWD Act 2016 reproduced:

THE SCHEDULE
[See clause (zc) of section 2]
SPECIFIED DISABILITY

1. Physical disability.—
A. Locomotor disability (a person's inability to execute distinctive activities associated with movement of self and objects resulting from affliction of musculoskeletal or nervous system or both), including—
(a) "leprosy cured person" means a person who has been cured of leprosy but is suffering from—
    (i) loss of sensation in hands or feet as well as loss of sensation and
    paresis in the eye and eye-lid but with no manifest deformity;
    (ii) manifest deformity and paresis but having sufficient mobility in
    their hands and feet to enable them to engage in normal economic activity;
    (iii) extreme physical deformity as well as advanced age which
    prevents him/her from undertaking any gainful occupation, and the
    expression "leprosy cured" shall construed accordingly;
(b) "cerebral palsy" means a Group of non-progressive neurological condition affecting body movements and muscle coordination, caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring before, during or shortly after birth;
(c) "dwarfism" means a medical or genetic condition resulting in an adult
height of 4 feet 10 inches (147 centimeters) or less;
(d) "muscular dystrophy" means a group of hereditary genetic muscle
disease that weakens the muscles that move the human body and persons with multiple dystrophy have incorrect and missing information in their genes, which prevents them from making the proteins they need for healthy muscles. It is characterised by progressive skeletal muscle weakness, defects in muscle proteins, and the death of muscle cells and tissue;
(e) "acid attack victims" means a person disfigured due to violent assaults by throwing of acid or similar corrosive substance.

B. Visual impairment—
(a) "blindness" means a condition where a person has any of the following conditions, after best correction—
   (i) total absence of sight; or
   (ii) visual acuity less than 3/60 or less than 10/200 (Snellen) in the
   better eye with best possible correction; or
   (iii) limitation of the field of vision subtending an angle of less than 10 degree.
(b) "low-vision" means a condition where a person has any of the following conditons, namely:—
       (i) visual acuity not exceeding 6/18 or less than 20/60 upto 3/60 or upto 10/200      (Snellen) in the better eye with best possible corrections; or
       (ii) limitation of the field of vision subtending an angle of less than 40 degree up to 10 degree.
C. Hearing impairment—
(a) "deaf" means persons having 70 DB hearing loss in speech frequencies in both ears;
(b) "hard of hearing" means person having 60 DB to 70 DB hearing loss in speech frequencies in both ears;
D. "speech and language disability" means a permanent disability arising out of conditions such as laryngectomy or aphasia affecting one or more components of speech and language due to organic or neurological causes.

2. Intellectual disability, a condition characterised by significant limitation both in
intellectual functioning (rasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behaviour
which covers a range of every day, social and practical skills, including—
(a) "specific learning disabilities" means a heterogeneous group of conditions wherein there is a deficit in processing language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself as a difficulty to comprehend, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations and includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and developmental aphasia;
(b) "autism spectrum disorder" means a neuro-developmental condition typically
appearing in the first three years of life that significantly affects a person's ability to
communicate, understand relationships and relate to others, and is frequently associated
with unusal or stereotypical rituals or behaviours.
3. Mental behaviour,—
"mental illness" means a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, but does not include retardation which is a conditon of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person, specially characterised by subnormality of intelligence.

4. Disability caused due to—

(a) chronic neurological conditions, such as—
(i) "multiple sclerosis" means an inflammatory, nervous system disease in
which the myelin sheaths around the axons of nerve cells of the brain and spinal
cord are damaged, leading to demyelination and affecting the ability of nerve
cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other;
(ii) "parkinson's disease" means a progressive disease of the nervous
system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movement, chiefly
affecting middle-aged and elderly people associated with degeneration of the
basal ganglia of the brain and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
(b) Blood disorder—
(i) "haemophilia" means an inheritable disease, usually affecting only male but transmitted by women to their male children, characterised by loss or impairment of the normal clotting ability of blood so that a minor would may result in fatal bleeding;
(ii) "thalassemia" means a group of inherited disorders characterised by reduced or absent amounts of haemoglobin.
(iii) "sickle cell disease" means a hemolytic disorder characterised by chronic anemia, painful events, and various complications due to associated tissue and organ damage; "hemolytic" refers to the destruction of the cell membrane of red blood cells resulting in the release of hemoglobin.
5. Multiple Disabilities (more than one of the above specified disabilities) including
deaf blindness which means a condition in which a person may have combination of
hearing and visual impairments causing severe communication, developmental, and
educational problems.

6. Any other category as may be notified by the Central Government.

————