Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lawsuit against State of Florida for unnecessary segretation of disabled in institutions

Dear Colleagues,

Children have a right to grow up with their families, among their friends and in their own ‎communities‬ as per US Supreme Court’s decision in ‪‎Olmstead‬ v. L.C. The judgement requires states to eliminate unnecessary ‪‎segregation‬ or ‪‎institutionalisation‬ of persons with ‪‎disabilities‬. 

On finding ‎violations‬ that are serious, systemic and ongoing and which require comprehensive relief for children and their families, US Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the State of Florida alleging that the state is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its administration of its service system for children with significant medical needs, resulting in nearly 200 children with disabilities being unnecessarily segregated in nursing facilities when they could be served in their family homes or other ‎communitybased‬ settings! 

Here is detailed press release:


The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida alleging the state is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its administration of its service system for children with significant medical needs, resulting in nearly 200 children with disabilities being unnecessarily segregated in nursing facilities when they could be served in their family homes or other community-based settings.  The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., further alleges that the state’s policies and practices place other children with significant medical needs in the community at serious risk of institutionalization in nursing facilities.  The ADA and the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C. require states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities.  The department’s complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory damages for affected children.

In September of last year, the department issued an extensive findings letter, notifying the state that it is in violation of the ADA.  The letter found that the state’s failure to provide access to necessary community services and supports was leading to children with significant medical needs being unnecessarily institutionalized in, or being placed at serious risk of entering nursing facilities.  The letter identified the numerous ways in which state policies and practices have limited the availability of access to medically necessary in-home services for children with significant medical needs.  Additionally, the state’s screening and transition planning processes have been plagued with deficiencies.  Some children have spent years in a nursing facility before receiving screening required under federal law to determine whether they actually need to be in a nursing facility.

As a result of the state’s actions and inaction, the state has forced some families to face the cruel choice of fearing for their child’s life at home or placing their child in a nursing facility.  In one instance, the state cut one child’s in-home health care in half.  Her family could not safely provide care themselves to make up for this reduction in services, and they felt they had no choice but to place her in a nursing home.  Another child who entered a nursing facility as a young child spent almost six years in a facility before the state completed her federally mandated screening.

“Florida must ensure that children with significant medical needs are not isolated in nursing facilities, away from their families and communities,” said Eve Hill, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “Children have a right to grow up with their families, among their friends and in their own communities.  This is the promise of the ADA’s integration mandate as articulated by the Supreme Court in Olmstead.  The violations the department has identified are serious, systemic and ongoing and require comprehensive relief for these children and their families.” 

Since late 2012, the department has met with Florida officials on numerous occasions in an attempt to resolve the violations identified in the findings letter cooperatively.  While the state has altered some policies that have contributed to the unnecessary institutionalization of children, ongoing violations remain.  Nearly two hundred children remain in nursing facilities.  Deficient transition planning processes, lengthy waiting lists for community-based services and a lack of sufficient community-based alternatives persist.  The department has therefore determined that judicial action is necessary to ensure that the civil rights of Florida’s children are protected.

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities, including state and local governments.    The ADA requires public entities to ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. The department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the ADA, which authorizes the Attorney General to investigate allegations of discrimination based upon disability and to conduct compliance reviews regarding the programs and services offered by public entities. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

HC orders exemplery damages to child acquiring disability due to electrocution

Dear Colleagues,

In this unique case wherein a toddler was electrocuted due to negligence of Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (UHBVN) and lost his both arms and one leg with severe burn injuries, the Punjab and Haryana High Court took an unprecedented step of exercising its extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution and awarded the child 'exemplary damages' -Rs 62 lakh and litigation costs in addition to all medical costs, including those on prosthetics and future medicinal advances like stem cell therapy, until he is 21.

Breaking from the confines of the Victims Compensation Scheme brought about through an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC 357A) in 2008, the Hon'ble Judge not only saved the toddler Raman and his father the vagaries of prolonged civil litigation but may have also opened doors for other similarly placed victims for whom such remedial compensation could ensure survival. This precedent may greatly help victims of rape, human traffickking, kidnapping, child abuse and acid attacks, where protracted trials are often tedious and cumbersome. The heart touching coverage by India Today below:

Asit Jolly, Friday, July 19, 2013 | 17:21 IST

The animated antics of Chhota Bheem and Doraemon never fail to delight him. And he almost stops breathing in bated anticipation every time Mahendra Singh Dhoni lunges to stump a batsman. Potato wafers, Pepsi and Maggi noodles make for his dream meal. In fact the last thing on five-and-a-half-year-old Raman Swami's mind is the fact that he is missing both arms and his left leg.

Raman (left) with sister Khushi.
November 3, 2011, was the last time Raman used his limbs, running and tripping all the way back from nursery school to his home in Haryana's Sanauli Khurd village. Like other afternoons, he quickly ate lunch before bounding up the narrow stairwell to the roof, his favourite spot in the house. Minutes later, a neighbour rushed in screaming: "Raman ko bijli ne pakkad liya (Raman has been electrocuted)! The forever-curious toddler lay burnt, bleeding and unconscious in the neighbour's house, 15 feet from the spot he last stood-thrown by an 11,000 volt power line, installed by state-owned power utility Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (UHBVN), just two feet above the roof.

On June 27, 2013, twenty months after his life-changing encounter, the Punjab & Haryana High Court stepped in as Raman's saviour. Justice Rajiv Narain Raina took the unprecedented step of exercising his extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution in awarding the child 'exemplary damages'-Rs 62 lakh and litigation costs in addition to all medical costs, including those on prosthetics and future medicinal advances like stem cell therapy, until Raman is 21.

Breaking from the confines of the Victims Compensation Scheme brought about through an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC357A) in 2008, Justice Raina not only saved Raman and his father the vagaries of prolonged civil litigation but may have also opened doors for other similarly placed victims for whom such remedial compensation could ensure survival. "The judge has created a precedent for rape victims, sufferers of acid attacks, victims of human trafficking, child abuse and kidnapping where protracted trials can be tedious and cumbersome, says Chandigarh lawyer Anil Malhotra, who advised the court as amicus curiae in the case.

After more than a month at the Burn Injuries Unit of Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, Raman came home, definitely tired and wondering why he could not bring himself to scratch at the infernal itch on his ear lobe. "They saved his life and I cannot stop thanking them for that, but I got only half my son back, says Manoj Sharma, 42, Raman's inconsolable father who runs an autorickshaw and tractor spares shop on the Panipat Road heading out of Sanauli Khurd. "My boy wanted wings to fly, instead they took away his limbs, he says with eyes brimming over at the horrifying memory of seeing portions of his son's charred fists still smoking on the 'killer cable'.

The promise of money, which will be held in two bank accounts until Raman turns 21, has changed little in Sharma's bleak existence. The poor shopkeeper must contend with the unsettling prospect of paying back nearly Rs 15 lakh he borrowed for his son's treatment over the past 20 months. But more than the money, it bothers him that the court "failed to punish even one of those responsible for Raman's condition.

Sharma told the court that after objecting to the proximity of the 11,000 volt power line when it was first installed almost touching his roof in 2006, he made several verbal and at least one written complaint to uhbvn officials over the years. "I had a foreboding that something terrible would happen. They did nothing. And our whole world fell apart, he says.

Up in the two-room house above his father's ramshackle auto parts shop, little Raman is quite oblivious to the commotion over the high court's verdict and compensation package. A trifle shy at first, he quickly warms up to the presence of new visitors. Ten short minutes later you forget the boy has just one 'good' limb.

"He has become surprisingly self-sufficient, his mother Beena, 38, says with a conflicting mix of doting pride and apprehension about her only son's future. Raman incredulously employs his five remaining toes and a combination of muscles from his jaws, chin, torso and lower back to write, give himself a bath, switch to Doraemon on tv and even use the video app on his father's Nokia touchscreen phone to shoot movies with a steadier 'right foot' than most veteran cameramen.

"Itches are my biggest problem, he says with a sheepish smile. "But didi (sister) is always by my side. Raman uses a pen held between his toes to indicate the precise spot on his back to older sister Khushi, 9.

Can he use his foot to draw? "Sure I can, he unhesitatingly replies, proceeding immediately to sketch a face using chalk on a slate. The picture is done but Raman isn't happy: "That does not look like you, he says. "I will practise and the next time you come I shall draw you better", he smiles.

A year before he touched the wire on the roof, he broke his right arm in a fall. "When he asks, I tell him his leg and arms will grow back just like his arm healed after the fracture, says Beena. "He is already suffering and I cannot bear to tell him the truth, she says.

"Don't go close to the wire... it will hurt you, the boy cautions anyone going up to the roof. And yes, a fortnight after the path-breaking high court verdict, uhbvn's offending power line still looms over the Sharma home.

Raman says he wants to grow up to be a Dhoni or a Sehwag. Looking down at his absent limbs he quickly assures you: "Don't you worry, they will grow back. My mother said so. And my mother never lies.

And so what if his arms haven't 'grown back', the little fellow can give you a farewell jhappi (hug) like none other: Simply putting his beautiful head over your shoulder and sighing. You come away with the feeling of being held tightly in his 'arms'.

Source: India Today

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Judges turn the tables on Husband seeking divorce on grounds of Mental illness of wife


Dear Colleagues,

Striking a gender equality note, the Supreme Court turned the tables and asked the husband whether it would have granted divorce to a woman from her husband, who on developing some mental disorder had become completely dependent on her, if she promised a huge sum as permanent alimony! Quite an interesting read and also indicates the increasing trend of more matrimonial cases reaching courts seeking divorce in name of mental ilnesses of the spouse... (read wives with unsound mind) ! 

SC strikes gender equality note in grant of divorce

Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN | Jul 2, 2013, 04.28 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Irretrievable breakdown of marriage, coupled with promise of large amount of money as permanent alimony, has been cited by rich and powerful men to seek divorce from their wives when all was not well in the marital relationship. 

Striking a gender equality note, the Supreme Court on Monday turned the tables and asked whether it would have granted divorce to a woman from her husband, who on developing some mental disorder had become completely dependent on her, if she promised a huge sum as permanent alimony. 

The case related to Darshan Gupta and Radhika Gupta, who married when they were barely out of their teens in 1997. Radhika's first pregnancy was terminated due to medical reasons. The second pregnancy was again a very complicated one and the child had to be delivered through Caesarian section. She remained unconscious for a long time and developed serious mental disorder. The child died eight days after birth. 

Though she was treated in reputed hospitals, she allegedly remained mentally ill. The husband claimed separation from her since 2002, breakdown of marriage and offered a large sum of money as permanent alimony to seek termination of marriage. 

A bench of Justices P Sathasivam and J S Khehar rejected the husband's plea and wondered whether a similar request by a woman would have been entertained by the apex court for grant of divorce from a husband who developed some mental disorder. 

"In the context of doing justice, it was suggested that the appellant (husband) would be ready and willing to pay the respondent (wife) whatever was considered appropriate by the Supreme Court. We are informed that the appellant is financially well to do," the bench said. 

"We would, in our endeavour to determine the issue in hand, examine the matter by reversing the roles of the parties. We will examine the matter as if the wife had approached the family court seeking divorce, on the ground that her husband had suffered brain damage leading to cognitive deficiencies. Yet, despite the said deficiencies, his working memory had returned to 'near normal' after treatment. And his mental condition was such that it would not have any effect on his matrimonial obligations," the bench added. 

"And the wife's family is agreeable to pay an amount to be determined by this court (just as the husband Darshan Gupta has offered), so as to enable their daughter to break away and find a more suitable match. Should she have been granted freedom from her matrimonial ties, in the given facts, in order to do complete justice to the parties? We would ask ourselves whether the husband would have accepted such a plea, in the facts denoted above," it further said. 

"In such a situation, if this court had, in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, granted compensation to the husband, and had dissolved his marriage on the pretext of doing complete justice between the parties, would the same be acceptable to the husband? We have no doubt in our mind that on a reversal of roles, the husband, without any fault of his own, would have never accepted as just the dissolution of his matrimonial ties, even if the couple had been separated for a duration, as is the case in hand," Justice Khehar, while authoring the judgment for the bench, said.

Source: Times of India

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Delhi High Court directs the private schools to make their schools barrier free & inclusive

Dear Colleagues,

After its order directing all private and government schools in Delhi to appoint Special educators for children with disabilities and provide necessary teaching and learning material earlier, the Delhi High Court, on a petition by Social Jurist has ordered to make all private schools barrier free for the disabled. It was brought to the notice of the court that private schools do not have adequate physical and academic infrastructure for children with disabilities and thus children forced in to these institution continued to face discrimination.

It was pointed out in the petition that there are 2039 unaided recognized private schools (1260 recognized by Directorate of Education (DoE), GNCTD and 779 recognized by MCD) and 258 aided recognized private schools (214 aided by DoE, GNCTD and 44 aided by MCD) in Delhi and most of them do not have the provisions of basic physical as well as academic infrastructure, including Special Educators as required for the education of the children with disabilities; These schools also did not provide barrier free infrastructure to the children with disabilities. This violated Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 of such children as guaranteed under Articles 14,15,21, 21-A & 38 of the Constitution of India as well as contrary to the provisions of Delhi School Education Act, 1973, Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, U.N. Convention on Rights of Child (1989) and U.N. Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006).

The bench of Hon'ble Acting Chief Justice and Hon'ble Mr. Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw while hearing the petition W.P.(C) No.4618/2011 titled  Social Jurist, A civil rights group versus Govt. of NCT of Delhi directed all recognised, aided and unaided private schools in Delhi to appoint special educators and to make their buildings/school premises barrier-free for children with disabilities. The Director of Education has been directed to ensure that the Court Orders were followed and to de-recognise any school that has not made its premises disabled-friendly.

The court has now granted time up until March 31, 2013, to the schools to make their premises barrier-free and to appoint special educators with the next two years.

“Schools where children with special needs are already admitted or will be admitted hereafter shall immediately make provision for special educators...no school shall refuse admission to children with disability for the reason of not employing special educators or not providing barrier-free access on the school premises,” the court order says.

The court has also clarified that the capital expenditure on making the school building and premises barrier free so as to allow free movement to children with disability has to be incurred by the schools from their own coffers and is not reimbursable by the Government as Section 19 of the RTE Act requires all schools, as a condition for their recognition, to provide a barrier free access in their buildings.

The Court ordered that the schools where children with special needs are already admitted or will be admitted hereafter shall immediately make provision for Special Educators and further ordain that no school shall refuse admission to children with disability for the reason of not employing Special Educators or not providing barrier free access in the school premises

It may be pertinent to mention here that earlier a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court in matter Social Jurist, A Civil Rights Group Vs. Govt. of NCT of Delhi 163 (2009) DLT 489 had directed the GNCTD as well schools run by local bodies namely NDMC, MCD and Cantonment Board to ensure that each school shall have at least two special educators and that necessary teaching aids and reading materials are provided to children with disability. However, this did not cover the Private schools.

Those who want to go through the detailed order, Click here. W.P.(C) No.4618/2011

Media Coverage


regards
Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

ICAI's writer guidelines still discriminatory against persons with disabilities

Dear Colleagues,


This post is to alert the students with disabilities appearing in the CA exams organised by ICAI that start tomorrow onwards i.e. 02 May 2013 onwards and are facing any problem with regard to scribe / writers etc. 

Background
The Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India on the order of Chief Commissioner Disabilities, have issued "Uniform and Comprehensive Guidelines for conducting examinations for the persons with disabilities"  vide Memorandum No F.No. 16-110/2003-DD.III dated 26 Feb 2013. These guidelines are binding on all the recruitment agencies, academics/ examination bodies including ICAI.

However, the ICAI's has till date not taken any step to revise their writer guidelines. Many of you would recall that last year during the month of April, we had to challenge the arbitrary and unreasonable Writer's Guidelines that put draconian conditions for usage of writers/ scribe by the persons with disabiliteis.  This issue was covered in my earlier post dated 26 April 2012 titled "ICAI imposes arbitrary writers/ scribes conditions for students with disabilities". 

When the ICAI did not budge even after a clear cut order from the Court of Chief Commissioner Disabilities, we had to urgently move the Delhi High Court on 02 May 2012 who passed its Judgement in the matter titled "Subhash Chandra Vashishth Vs. Institute of Chartered Accountants of India" on the same day allowing the petition and striking down the arbitrary guidelines as detailed in my earlier post dated 02 May 2012 for the said exams.

Discrimination Continues

Though as directed by the Hon'ble High Court in the above order, in a subsequent meeting of the ICAI board, some conditions objected by us were removed and a new guideline was brought out. However, several restrictive conditions still remained which are now running contrary to the Uniform Guidelines of the MSJE dated 26 Feb 2013. 

One of them is "Writer should be the same person for all the papers of an examination and in case there is a need to change the writer for the reasons beyond the control of the concerned examinee or the writer and a request in this behalf is made, change may be allowed.  Such a change in writer will be permissible once during the course of an examination." 

This works against the interest of the persons with disabilities since it is difficult to find good writers in the exam season. And one person can have exigencies of life that may now allow him/her to attend all the examinations.  Only a person with disability knows how difficult it is to find a competent writer. 

The ICAI has further restricted the writers on the basis of qualifications. The chartered accountancy is a technical examination and any undergraduate can not reduced the dictation on the answer sheet with perfection. But the ICAI has put in the following qualifications for writers:

Examination      
Qualification of writer as per ICAI's Guidelines
MSJE Guidelines
CPT
10th/ /Matriculation 

No cap on qualification. Invigilation needs to be strengthened
Final/Intermediate [IPCE]    
Under Graduate and neither registered students of CA/CWA/CS course nor passed Final examination and nor a member of the ICAI, ICWAI, and ICSI.
No cap of qualifications
Post qualification course (meant for members of 
ICAI )

Graduate (other than in Commerce or Corporate Laws Stream )  and neither registered students of CA/CWA/CS course nor passed Final examination and nor a member of the ICAI, ICWAI, and ICSI.
No cap on qualifications


One of the candidate wrote to the ICAI officials in mid of March 2013 requesting ICAI to relax the conditions so that they could appear with multiple writers those who are at least commerce graduates. However, today i.e. one day before the examination, suddenly the candidate received the following response by email :

"Please refer to your mail dated 14th March, 2013, stating, inter alia, as under:-

(a)  I be permitted to get different scribes for the different days of examinations so that unavailability of good scribes does not cause an impediment to my succeeding at the examination and;

(b)  It is requested that the regulations with relation to scribes be revised to enable visually impaired persons to use scribes who are commerce graduates.

In connection in the above, following is stated as under:

a)   In terms of related guidelines in place, ‘writer should be the same person for all the papers of an examination and in case there is a need to change the writer for the reasons beyond the control of the concerned examinee or the writer and a request in this behalf is made, change may be allowed.  Such a change in writer will be permissible once during the course of an examination.’

Hence, we regret our inability to accede to your request for different writers. In case, however, change in writer is beyond your control, you may submit a  request at the appropriate for change in writer as stated above. Such a change would be permissible only once.  The related guidelines are hosted on website www.icai.org .  You may like to visit the same.

b) The guidelines are framed at appropriate level vis-à-vis considering all the relevant factors.  Please refer to point No.2 of the enclosed revised guidelines.

ICAI, Exams."

The candidate was shocked to receive the response just a day before the exam. It is ICAI's tactic to inform the candidates closer to the actual exam so that no candidate can approach for legal remedy and suffer in silence. They did this last year also. 

The so called revised guidelines hosted on the icai website  have been found to be arbitrary, unlawful and highly unfair for persons with disabilities. The Additional Secretary- Exams, ICAI has been alerted to resolve this on priority today through a detailed telephonic call and also a detailed email by the undersigned. However, the response did not confirm any immediate action but only a typical  assurance "we are seized of the matter and are looking at it. Lets see what we can do  and we will try to do something....."

The Chief Commissioner- Disabilities has also acted promptly with a letter asking the ICAI to not only allow the students with disabilities to avail multiple number of scribes/ writers to write their exams but also have writers with no cap on qualifications or age etc. It means a student with disability can also take along with him/her a junior student studying in the same college/institution or a family member.

All students with disabilities espcially those who are entitled for writers/ extra time and who are to appear in the ICAI examination that starts tommorrow should claim the benefits of the Scribe Guidelines of the Ministry of Social Justice referred above.If any of the students/ candidates with disabilities particularly those with vision impairment  face any problem while appearing for the ICAI exams that start tomorrow, please do let us know.

Mr. Pranay Gadodia & others at Eye-way Help Desk  deserve accolades for facilitating the candidates approach us in time. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Madras High Court reinstates conductor citing section 47 of Disabilities Act

Dear Colleagues,

It is little surprising that the corporations, government departments continue to disregard Section 47 of Indian Persons with Disabilities Act  1995 that provides as under:


"47. (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. "

Despite the clear cut provisions in the Act, Ravichandran, a conductor with the Tamil Nadu State Express Transport Corporation was declared medically unfit to continue in service by a medical board in 2004 and removed from service, though with an assurance of an alternate employment which was refused later.

The Court reinstated the conductor with back wages from the date of his termination citing Section 47 ibid.

Here is the news coverage.



Conductor sacked over disability, gets back job
TNN | Jan 23, 2013, 06.24 AM IST

CHENNAI: About nine years after a government bus conductor was removed from service on the ground of an unidentified 'disability', the Madras HC has ordered his immediate reinstatement with all salary arrears and service seniority.

Justice D Hariparanthaman, ruling on a petition filed by T M Ravichandran, said: "Any employee who acquires disability during his service is given protection under Section 47 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. There is a mandate under the Act that no establishment shall dispense with a staff who acquires a disability during service."

Ravichandran, a conductor with the Tamil Nadu State Express Transport Corporation, was found 'medically unfit' to continue in service by a medical board of the Government General Hospital in Chennai on February 2, 2004. He was removed from service on August 16, 2004, with an assurance that he would be given an alternate employment based on the seniority list. On December 26, 2011, however, the corporation rejected his request for reinstatement, stating that no other suitable post was available.

Rejecting the transport authorities' stand, Justice Hariparanthaman said Section 47 contemplated that if there is no suitable post is available, the person should be kept on a supernumerary post till a vacancy arises or till his superannuation. "There cannot be any gap between the disqualification of an employee due to acquiring disability and adjustment in a suitable post," he said, setting aside the dismissal order. The judge then asked the authorities to reinstate Ravichandran in service within two weeks along with back wages from the date of his termination.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Forcefully retired while on leave, cancer patient granted pension

Dear colleagues,

We have seen in the past that several persons with disabilities have been removed from service by forcing them voluntary retirement on acquiring disabilities in contravention to Section 47 of the Persons with Disabilities Act.

The instant case is of an employee with State Bank of India (Chennai Circle) who was a cancer patient and was forcefully "voluntary retired" while she was on leave undergoing treatment for cancer some 12 year back. The irony is that she continued to fight till 2005 when her gratuity and PF were settled after prolonged representations. However, she was denied her pension and she had to approach the court.

Now after several years of protracted legal battle, the Madras High court has allowed her appeal granting her the pension. Though this is not directly related to a person with disability, however is a good case law in cases where employers take unilateral actions removing employees from service without even informing them. Here is the report.


For cancer patient, a protracted battle for pension is finally won;  Court says voluntary retirement had been forced on the petitioner.

A cancer patient who was ‘voluntarily’ retired by a nationalised bank has won a legal battle for pension with the Madras High Court declaring she is entitled to the benefit.

A Division Bench comprising Justices C. Nagappan and M. Sathyanarayanan granted a declaration on an appeal by Premila Kiruba Augustus. She had joined State Bank of India as a clerk-cum-typist at the Bangalore Main Branch and on her request was transferred to Chennai Circle in January 1981. She was posted as an electronic machine operator from May 1990. When she was on leave for personal reasons, the bank ‘voluntarily retired’ her from service on March 31, 1999. She challenged the order by raising an industrial dispute and after it failed, asked for a reference before the Labour Ministry. This was declined on grounds of a delay. She then made several requests for her pension to be settled. She had completed 25 years of pensionable service. Her gratuity and provident fund were settled in 2005. However, her request for pension was not considered.

Hence, she filed a writ petition. She was not guilty of delay because the bank failed to respond to her representations, it said. She could not pursue her pension claim as her husband underwent a bypass surgery and her father, who was living with her, also underwent a hip replacement surgery and later died. She was diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment. She sought to declare the bank’s action in not sanctioning pension after retiring her, illegal.

The bank contended that the petitioner had voluntarily abandoned her service. Therefore, in terms of a bipartite settlement, she was voluntarily retired from service. Since, she did not make a request seeking voluntary retirement, she could not claim pension.

In June last year, a single Judge disposed of the writ petition with a direction to settle the pensionary benefits. The settlement was to be made depending upon the outcome of another case before the Supreme Court. This case arose out of a Punjab and Haryana High Court ruling that the settlement in question had undergone a change. Mrs. Augustus and the bank preferred appeals against the single Judge’s order.

The petitioner’s counsel, S. Vaidyanathan, said the case pending before the Supreme Court had nothing to do with the facts of the present case. Since the bank itself had voluntarily retired the petitioner from service, it amounted to deemed voluntary retirement. As a corollary, the petitioner was entitled to pension as she had put in the required number of years of pensionable service.

Writing the common judgment for the Bench, Justice M. Sathyanarayanan said considering the facts and circumstances and the Supreme Court’s decision in Syndicate Bank vs Satya Srinath, which was applicable to the present case, it was of the view that voluntary retirement had been forced on the petitioner. The bank’s contention that she had voluntarily abandoned the service could not be sustained.

There was no necessity to await the Supreme Court’s judgment. The Bench allowed her appeal and dismissed the bank’s appeal.

Woman had completed 25 years of bank service;  She had then been ‘voluntarily’ retired;  Court says voluntary retirement had been forced on the petitioner.

Source: The Hindu

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Non discrimination, UN CRPD and Disabled Soldiers in India

Dear Friends,

The two most enabling sections of the The Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 i.e. section 33 (Employment Chapter) and section 47 (Non Discrimination Chapter) have been made redundant by their disabling proviso which I call as Black proviso i.e.  "Provided that the appropriate Government may, having regard to the type of work carried on in any department or establishment, by notification subject to such conditions, if any, as may be specified in such notification, exempt any establishment from the provisions of this section."

This black provisio continues in the new draft Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2012  ready to be tabled in the parliament in different sections. The biggest victim of this proviso under Section 47,  have been those brave citizen of this vast nation who risked their lives to preserve the integrity of their motherland while being in defense forces, para-military forces & police departments and acquired disabilities - both minor or severe. The effect of this black proviso has been catastrophic on the morale of those who are out there on the borders to defend the nation or stationed in troubled areas to control the  law and order and save the democracies.

What will happen to me and my family if I become disabled during the course of duty or during my job? Am I being treated like my civilian counter parts when it comes to the social protection or non-discrimination? .... such questions plague the psyche of the ordinary officers of our forces - thanks to the black proviso and the subsequent notification by the Govt. of India under the said proviso declaring the defense forces to be kept out of the ambit of the protections available under this section.

Civilian Employees Versus Combatant Employees

Lets understand how the two employees - one civilian and one from the forces is treated under section 47 of the disabilities Act:

The section mandates as below:

"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.  (most misused proviso)

Now if it was a civilian employee under the government, on acquiring a disability due to any reason, his pay scale and service benefits remain protected even if the disability sustained limits the functional capacities of the person to an extent that he/she can not be adjusted against any existing post. Such a person remains on a supernumerary post until a post is found out or till he attains age of superannuation.

On the contrary, an employee from the forces, on acquiring a disability - whether during the course of duty or during any mishap when not on duty is invariably  medically  boarded out with a paltry disability pension and left to fend for himself in the grim employment scenario. The family members and dependents suffer due to sudden calamity and the person becomes a liability for the family in absence of strong social security provisions. 

Why the talented youth is not attracted to Forces any more

Given an option, any talented young person would prefer a civil employment to an employment in the forces since the forces have not thought to respect for the sacrifices or say the human rights, social security and non-discrimination clauses of the central laws and international human right conventions. The youth of today knows there is no future in the forces. Worst - in case of a mishap - death or disability is inevitable. And both  will take away the bread winner of the family with no social protections.

Need to think out of box in light of UN CRPD

We as a nation has to think what we offer to our sons and daughters  who risk their lives for the country in comparison to a civilian on duty. Also we have to walk the talk since India is among first few handful countries  who signed the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the very first day of its opening for signature and subsequently ratified the same. However, we continue to discriminate on the basis of disability when it comes to government employment in forces.

The UN Convention defines "Discrimination on the basis of disability" means any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation;

Some possibilities worth considering

Not all jobs in the forces are of combatant nature and many involve desk jobs such administration, logistics, equipment, stores, purchase and several others. This means that the exemption given under the garb of black proviso, can be easily withdrawn and combatants acquiring disabilities can be adjusted in non-combatant jobs/branches. 

If the Government feels that it may compromise with the war preparedness of the forces, it may also consider keeping all such severely disabled combatant employees on supernumerary posts with full pay scale and other benefits. While those who are with disabilities that allow sufficient functional abilities to be gainfully occupied in the desk operations, should be accommodated in the base units/formations.

This can help fill up the huge shortfall in the forces by motivating the youth and assuring them that they would not be discriminated if they become disabled while in service- whether the injury was or not attributable to service.

This would ensure that our forces do not discriminate on the basis of disability and are in conformity with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. There have been several examples in the defence forces where combatants who acquired disability during action were retained and such a trend is very good, however, one should not be forced to go to Armed Forces Tribunal each time to obtain right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law (Art 14 of the Constitution) and Article 5 (equality and non-discrimination) of the UNCRPD.

We don't need to wait for the new draft law to come in to being to enforce this and it can be simply done by withdrawing the "Black Proviso" and the Notification of Exemption accordingly encapsulating the above.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Court rules severely disabled woman wasn't raped because she didn't 'bite, kick or scratch' her assailant

This outrageous judgement from Connecticut State Supreme Court is only going to encourage crimes against disabled women! This indicates the prejudices, negative attitudes, lack of awareness about the disabling conditions that many of us live with in the community, especially among certain sections of the judiciary!

Court Rules Severely Disabled Woman Wasn't Raped Because She Didn't 'Bite, Kick or Scratch' Her Assailant

October 3, 2012    

In a 4-3 ruling Tuesday afternoon, the Connecticut State Supreme Court  overturned the sexual assault conviction of a man who had sex with a woman who “has severe cerebral palsy, has the intellectual functional equivalent of a 3-year-old and cannot verbally communicate.” The Court held that, because Connecticut statutes define physical incapacity for the purpose of sexual assault as “unconscious or for any other reason. . . physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act,” the defendant could not be convicted if there was any chance that the victim could have communicated her lack of consent. Since the victim in this case was capable of “biting, kicking, scratching, screeching, groaning or gesturing,” the Court  ruled that that victim could have communicated lack of consent despite her serious mental deficiencies:

When we consider this evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict, and in a manner that is consistent with the state’s theory of guilt at trial, we, like the Appellate Court, ‘are not persuaded that the state produced any credible evidence that the [victim] was either unconscious or so uncommunicative that she was physically incapable of manifesting to the defendant her lack of consent to sexual intercourse at the time of the alleged sexual assault.’

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), lack of physical resistance  is not evidence of consent , as “many victims make the good judgment that physical resistance would cause the attacker to become more violent.” RAINN also notes that lack of consent is implicit “if you were under the statutory age of consent, or if you had a mental defect” as the victim did in this case.

Anna Doroghazi, director of public policy and communication at Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services,  worried that the Court’s interpretation of the law ignored these concerns: “By implying that the victim in this case should have bitten or kicked her assailant, this ruling effectively holds people with disabilities to a higher standard than the rest of the population when it comes to proving lack of consent in sexual assault cases. Failing to bite an assailant is not the same thing as consenting to sexual activity.” An amicus brief filed by the Connecticut advocates for disabled persons  argued that this higher standard “discourag[ed] the prosecution of crimes against persons with disabilities” even though “persons with a disability had an age-adjusted rate of rape or sexual assault that was more than twice the rate for persons without a disability.”

Source: www.alternet.org 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Disabled Students must get same admission benefits as SC/ST, rules Delhi HC

Dear  Colleagues,

In a path breaking judgement, a Bench of Delhi High Court has held that  the people suffering
from disabilities are equally socially backward, if not more, as those belonging to SC/ST categories and therefore, as per the Constitutional mandates, they are entitled to at least the same benefit of relaxation as given to SC/ST candidates.

This puts to rest the debate of whether Constitutions favours only the SC/ST and not disabled since Disability is not specifically included in the Constitution.

For detailed judgement  passed on 12 September 2012 in this case titled Writ Petition (C) No.4853 of 2012 ANAMOL BHANDARI Versus Delhi Technological University, please click here.

Below is the news report from Indian Express.

regards
Subhash C Vashishth, Advocate

Disabled students as socially backward as SC/ST, must get same admission benefit: HC

Jayant Sriram : New Delhi, Sun Sep 16 2012, 01:34 hrs

Holding that people suffering from disabilities are also equally socially backward, if not more, as SC/ST candidates, the Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi Technological University (DTU) to provide the same concession in marks for admitting disabled persons as applicable for SC/ST candidates.

“We hold that the provision of giving only 5 per cent concession in marks to persons with disabilities (PWD) candidates as opposed to 10 per cent relaxation provided to SC/ST candidates is discriminatory and PWD candidates are entitled to same treatment,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said.

The court’s order came on a petition by Anamol Bhandari, a physically disabled student, who challenged the disparity in treatment between the two categories.

In his petition, Bhandari said he had passed his CBSE exam with 52.66 per cent. He said DTU had fixed its cut-off for general candidates at 60 per cent but had provided a relaxation of 10 per cent for SC/ST candidates and 5 per cent for PWD candidates.

The petitioner said though he had cleared his All India Engineering Entrance exam with a rank sufficient to gain admission to DTU, he could not get admission on the basis that his Class XII marks did not meet the cut-off.

He said if the relaxation given to PWD candidates was on  par with SC/ST candidates, then he have been eligible for admission.

The university contended that they were free to frame their own admission guidelines, being an autonomous body. It argued that the petitioner was aware when applying that he would be eligible for a 5 per cent relaxation.

However, when the bench asked the counsel for DTU whether there was any rational basis for fixing the limit of relaxation at 5 per cent for PWD candidates, no clear answer was given and the counsel merely said it was a “policy decision”.