Showing posts with label civil political rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label civil political rights. Show all posts

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Consent Decree filed to ensure Physically Accessible Polling Centres in Augusta County, Virginia


Dear Colleagues,

The US Justice Department announced today that it has filed a complaint and proposed consent decree today in the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia resolving allegations that Augusta County, Virginia has discriminated on the basis of disability by failing to provide physically accessible polling places to people with mobility and vision disabilities. Title II of the ADA requires public entities to ensure that all of their polling places are accessible to people with disabilities.

Under the consent decree, which must be approved by the court, the County agreed to make permanent architectural changes to a number of polling place facilities, and to provide temporary measures such as portable ramps and temporary doorbells at others, to provide accessible polling places throughout the County. The County, which cooperated with the United States, also agreed to revise its policies and polling place survey instrument, and provide training to poll officials.

Click here to read the Consent Decree. However, it throws light that disability continues to be a subject last on the agenda of administration -some times due to lack of awareness and while other times due to lack of enforcement - both in developed as well in developing world. Glad that Deptt of Justice has taken this initiative to make Polling Process accessible to residents with Disabilities in Augusta County and also to create mechanism for monitoring and enforcement for a longer term.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Visually Impaired Civil Service aspirants await appointments


The focus of the write-up by Mr. Subhash Ghatage (kafila.org) is the plight of four candidates – all of them visually challenged – who had cleared the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) examinations way back in 2008, scored more marks than many ‘normal’ students and were still waiting for appointment letters. The Commission as everybody knows is India’s central agency authorised to conduct civil services and other important examinations.

The caller said that he was one among the four and shared with me the long struggle he along with others were engaged in to get their due. Apathy exhibited by people in the higher echelons of the Commission as far as visually challenged persons are concerned is really disturbing. And it was not for the first time that it had failed to give appointment letters to such candidates. Merely three years back Ravi Prakash Gupta had to approach the highest courts of the country namely the Supreme Court to get his appointment letter. Last February it was the Prime Minister’s Office  which had to intervene so that seven candidates from similar category could join their duty.

A recap of the appointments done between the period 1996 to 2008 tells us that only 15 visually challenged candidates have been recommended by UPSC, while almost 6900 vacancies were filled during this period. Among 15, 12 candidates have been recommended or upgraded after court orders.

While officially nothing is said about the inordinate delay by the commission in this particular case, it is evident in their action that candidates from this category are unwelcome. In fact, there seems to be a deliberate attempt to restrict the entry of such candidates, at times even by, glossing over the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. e.g. A petition by the caller ( Mr Pankaj Srivastava) tells us how in the year 2008

‘[t]otal 891 candidates were declared succesful but only four candidates from visualy challenged category were recommended by the commission, whereas it should be 9 according to the PWD act 1995.’

Despite the fact that Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) gave a favourable decision, the Commission is still engaged in delaying tactics. It even refused to calculate the backlog according to the necessary provisions of the act since 1996 when the Tribunal specifically asked it to do so. As a report in a leading national daily tells us (Times of India, 16 th Sep 2013) “

Between the four of them, they have filed two applications and one contempt petition against their non-appointment in the Central Administrative Tribunal. The tribunal ruled in their favour each time. There is a High Court stay order on one CAT order of May 2012 directing the authorities to appoint the four candidates, which is to be heard on September 24.”

It was late 70 s when Frank Bowe, a disability rights activist from US had written a monograph ‘Handicapping America’ (1978) in which he tried to explain how the key issue in any debate around disability is the societal response to it. For Bowe, the main point was not the status of physical or mental impairment of a particular person, but the way society develops strategies to cope with it.

One does not know when the obdurate bureaucracy at the Commission would become more aware and sensitive to the fact that there is a sea change in the perception about disability now. If earlier dominant trend in the disability discourse revolved around adoption of ‘social welfare measures’ and the world was bit far away from taking it up as a ‘human rights issue’with the adoption of an international convention in 2006 welfare and charity have been replaced by new rights and freedoms and there is growing recognition that a change of attitude is vital if disabled people are to achieve equal status.

We are told that the commission annually submits a report of its work to the President of India which is also sent to each house of the Parliament for discussion. One just expects that honourable members of the parliament – who have enough lung power left to point out acts of omission and commission on part of the government or the treasury benches ever contemplating strategies to strike back, would at least find time to go through the reports and see for oneself the great hiatus which exists between rosy picture about disability welfare which is presented through the ‘official’ reports and the actual situation on the ground.

.......continue to read from source: No country for Visually Challenged by Subhash Ghatade

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Private Organisations not bound by Disability Act: Says Supreme Court

Dear Friends,
This post is with respect to a recent judgement by Hon'ble Supreme Court in  Civil Appeal No. 1886/2007 titled Dalco Engineering Private Ltd. Vs. Shree Satish Prabhakar Padhye and Ors with another Civil Appeal No. 1858/2007 titled Fancy Rehabilitation Trust and Anr. Vs. Union of India and Ors.


The employee Mr. Padhye acquired hearing impairment during the period of service and was terminated by the employer. Employee got a favourable suggestion from Disability Commissioner Pune for his re-instatement under Section 47 of Disabilty Act which says:

“47. Non-discrimination in Government employment.—(1) No establishment shall dispense with, or reduce in rank, an employee who acquires a disability during his service:

Provided that, if an employee, after acquiring disability is not suitable for the post he was holding, could be shifted to some other post with the same pay scale and service benefits:

Provided further that if it is not possible to adjust the employee against any post, he may be kept on a supernumerary post until a suitable post is available or he attains the age of superannuation, whichever is earlier.


(2) No promotion shall be denied to a person merely on the ground of his disability:


Provided that the appropriate Government may, having regard to the type of work carried on in any establishment, by notification and subject to such conditions, if any, as may be specified in such notification, exempt any establishment from the provisions of this section.”

 
The word "Establishment" has been defined by Section 2( k)( i) of the Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 defines the word "Establishment as :-

"Establishment" means a corporation established by or under a Central, Provincial or State Act, or an authority or a body owned or controlled or aided by the Government or a local authority or a Government company as defined in section 617 of 'the Companies Act, 1956 and includes Departments of a Government;


On a simple reading of the definition of the word "establishment", it is clear that any organisation established under a central, provincial or state act will be an establishment. Thus any organisation registered and established under the provisions of the Societies Registration Act or the Indian Trust Act or The Companies Act should ordinarily get covered under this.

However over insistence here on the Government share/ownership or control indicates that the intention of creators of this statute was to only include organisations which are largely government or local authorities created under central or state statutes or has a government stake of 51% (read section 617 of Companies Act which has been specifically referred to indicate that this has to be read in exclusion of the Companies Act). Also the heading of Section 47 of Disability Act is "Non-discrimination in Government Employment" which clarifies the intention of the legislature that it did not wanted to include private companies under the word "establishment".

The Hon'ble Supreme Court has indicated that similar phrase in the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act meant "government companies".  The reason put forward by the Court is "A ‘company’ is not ‘established’ under the Companies Act. An incorporated company does not ‘owe’ its existence to the Companies Act. An incorporated company is formed by the act of any seven or more persons (or two or more persons for a private company) associated for any lawful purpose subscribing their names to a Memorandum of Association and by complying with the requirements of the Companies Act in respect of registration. Therefore, a ‘company’ is incorporated and registered under the Companies Act and not established under the Companies Act.


It further clarifies that inclusion of only a specific category of companies incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 (Govt. Companies registered under Section  617) within the definition of ‘establishment’ necessarily and impliedly excludes all other types of companies registered under the Companies Act, 1956, from the definition of ‘establishment’.


A counter argument to this would be that while IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act are punitive in nature and should be interpreted in restrictive and strict sense, the Disability Act is a benevolent, socio-economic and empowering legislation and must be interpreted in a way which favours the marginalized section of the society.

However, now a decision of the learned judges of the Supreme Court is out here clarifying the meaning of word establishment, removing the clouds of doubt on the existing legislation and leaving no room for its benevolent interpretation in future. Therefore, it would be worthwhile now that the disability activists address this issue in the New Law that is being suggested and be categorical that the provisions of the disability act would apply to all establishment including those private initiatives which are registered under any of the Central or State statutes like companies, trusts, societies and cooperatives etc.

This has larger force of argument because when a labour legislation related to PF, Minimum Wage etc. is applicable to private employers with a certain number of employees then why can't disability legislation be applicable - for the objective of both legislations is to empower the weak, vulnerable and marginalized members of our society?

On second thought, it comes to my mind as to why the exploitation of an employee with disability by an employer could not be taken up through labour legislations read in conjunction with disability Act and why alone under Section 47 of the Disability Act? The last line of the judgement - "This will not come in the way of employee of any private company, who has been terminated on the ground of disability, seeking or enforcing any right available under any other statute, in accordance with the law." -  gives a hint that it could have perhaps been better fought under labour legislations. 


Here is the news report on the issue from the Mail Today.



regards



SC Vashishth
Advocate-Disability Rights
09811125521


SC says disability Act not binding on private firms

Mail Today, 01st April 2010


THE SUPREME Court on Wednesday held that a law enacted in 1995, to prevent exploitation of the disabled by their employers, could not be enforced on the private sector.

A three- judge bench, comprising justices R. V. Raveendran, R. M. Lodha and C. K. Prasad, said the Persons with Disabilities ( Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, did not cast any obligation on private companies and schools.

The bench rejected a contention that the Act covered all companies incorporated under the Companies Act.

A private company had approached the apex court, against a high court order holding that the disabilities commissioner had jurisdiction over any company incorporated under the Companies Act. The high court had said it could direct the company to reinstate an employee who was dismissed on account of disability.

The second appeal was filed by a trust — on behalf of the employee — which had approached the apex court after the high court refused to pass any such direction to the company and admitted that the first judgment was incorrect.

Opposing the company’s appeal, the dismissed employee pointed out that section 2( k)( i) of the disability Act brought “ a corporation established by or under a central, provincial, or state Act” within its ambit.


But the apex court said a similar phrase in the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act meant government companies.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Supreme Court of Zimbabwe rules in favour of Independent Voting rights for PWDs


Political Editor

BOOSTED by the recent Constitutional Court ruling nullifying a section of the Electoral Act that required polling officers to assist visually impaired voters to cast their ballots, the local disability movement hopes that the proposed new constitution will guarantee them wider rights.

The Supreme Court, sitting as a Constitutional Court, recently declared Section 60 of the Electoral Act null and void saying it violates the principle of the secret ballot, in a landmark case brought up by Mr Simon Mvindi, a visually impaired voter, and five others.

The disability movement views the milestone ruling as the first step in upholding the voting and more rights of the blind. People living with disability hope the ruling would stimulate action towards protecting the voting rights of other disabled groups, including the deaf, dumb, the physically handicapped and persons of short stature.

Welcoming the January Constitutional Court ruling on blind voters, Mr Nyamayabo Mashavakure, a visually impaired teacher, said the basis for the holistic protection of the disabled's rights must be enshrined in the new Constitution.

He said while the ruling was plausible, political parties themselves and the Government through the electoral authority, must consider people with different disabilities in developing political communication materials, such as producing television campaign messages in sign language or posters in Braille.

"The people who approached the court on this matter did a very good job," said Mr Mashavakure.

"The ruling is good, not only for the visually impaired but also for everyone who is living with disability. We hope as we start drafting the new Constitution, we will come up with clear guarantees on the wider rights of the disabled, not just voting rights."

It is estimated that 10 percent of any country's population is disabled, which means that about 1,3 million Zimbabweans have various forms of disability.

The country is in the process of coming up with a new constitution in terms of the Global Political Agreement. Although lack of funding has hampered progress, a significant amount of work has been done since the process started early last year with the appointment of the Parliamentary Select Committee, which is charged with leading the process.

Outreach teams are expected to be dispatched across the country in the next two months to collect the people's views on the proposed supreme law, providing an opportunity for special interest groups like disabled people to contribute.

In his court papers filed in the Supreme Court case, Mr Mvindi recalled that on 29 March 2008 he, accompanied by his wife, went to a polling station hoping to cast his ballot in the harmonised election. However, he said he was taken aback when polling officers told him that they, and not his wife, could legally assist him in the voting process.

"I must hasten to point out that with the marital bond between my wife and I, I am not able to trust anyone more than I trust my wife," he said in the papers.

"She has been by my side throughout the whole period we have been married and from the time I lost my sight completely, she has acted as an aide in all my needs. To my utter shock and surprise, I was denied the right to be assisted by my wife."

The Constitutional Court heard his plea and ruled in his favour and his peers. The full bench unanimously agreed that the section of the Act violated the right of the visually impaired to voting by secret ballot and declared it unconstitutional.

"It is ordered that Section 60 of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) be and is hereby declared to be ultra vires sections 23A (2) (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Accordingly, Section 60 of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) be and is hereby declared null and void, and is struck down," ruled Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku.

Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba and Justices Wilson Sandura, Misheck Cheda and Paddington Garwe concurred.

Advocate Happias Zhou, who represented Mr Mvindi and others, said although his clients were blind, they were not illiterate. He said that the notion that the blind cannot exercise their voting rights other than in the presence of the persons stated in Section 60 of the Act was clear interference with the secrecy of the vote. He suggested that ideal secret voting for the blind people would allow voters to be accompanied by people they trusted.

It was submitted that in other countries, the visually impaired vote on their own on tactile Braille ballots, enlarged print, electronic ballot and other means.

The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa said he appreciated the need for the changes, but the electoral authority does not have funds to ensure that the special ballot papers, electronic ballots are made available.

Mr Mashavakure said most people who are visually impaired shunned voting for fear of possible political reprisals because the Electoral Act required them to disclose their political preferences to polling officers, who are essentially strangers to them.

He said if the Government does not have resources to provide special voting materials for the blind, it must allow the visually impaired to be assisted by their own aides during voting, even on common ballots. This, he said, removes the expense from the Government and places it on the disabled voter.

He said the new constitution must have a non-discriminatory disability clause as opposed to the current one, specifically Section 23 of Constitutional Amendment Number 17, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of physical disability only.

"Physical disability is not the only form of disability," he argued.

"There is also the question of language. If you look at the Kariba Draft for instance, it gives languages that are spoken in the country like Shona, Ndebele, Venda and others. However it leaves out one important language - sign language."

He said the National Constitutional Assembly draft has also its limitations.

"Its disability clause, which is Section 41 I think, gravitates towards the medical model of disability. It suggests that people living with disability are sick or something like that, but it must be known that they were ill at the point that caused their disability, but are now fine. So the constitution must be general in its articulation of disability, not specifying things like 'physical disability' or 'protecting oral languages', excluding sign language."

Mr Tsarai Mungoni, programmes officer (research and advocacy) at the National Association of the Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (Nascoh) said disability rights must be clearly spelt out in the Bill of Rights, adding that the Government must assist the disabled with social grants.

"Disability is expensive to manage," he said, "so people with disability need a social protection scheme in form of a disability grant, to be given to any disabled person, whether they are employed or not. This will serve to mitigate against disability-induced poverty. The Constitution must also clearly provide for affirmative action in terms of economic empowerment, education and representation in private and public sectors."

Mr Mungoni, who is a member of the Thematic Committee on Disability in the Select Committee, decried the fact that out of a population of 1,3 million disabled people in the country, about 20 of them are in the sub-committee of the handicapped.

He added that even in Parliament, there is no MP representing the disabled.

"That is where it starts — lack of representation," he said. "But we are saying the constitution must state a quota to be held by the disabled in Parliament and other critical areas."