Monday, April 24, 2023

Bombay HC directs BMC to consider use of technology (elevators etc) for all skywalks to make them friendly to senior citizens and persons with disabilities. [Judgemnet included]

Court: Bombay High Court

Bench: Hon'ble Mr. Justice Girish Kulkarni and Hon'ble Mr. Justice R N Laddha. 

Case No. : WP/771/2023 [Original]

Case Title: K.P. Purushothamna Nair of Mumbai VS.  Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai

Date of Judgement: 24 April 2023

Subject: Safe and Acessible Pavements / Pedestrian Facilities, Accessibility of Skywalk to persons with disabilities and senior citizens. 


On a petition by an HC staff-turned-lawyer K P P Nair, a Bandra resident, the BMC has been directed by the Bombay HC to install mechanical walkways and elevators at both ends of skywalks to help the senior citizens and persons with disabilities in commuting every day. It also ordered that in future, in all skywalks, the BMC must consider the use of technology to make these more sturdy and beneficial for all commuters.

The petiton raised important questions of accesssibilty of pedestrian facilities for the senior citizens and persosn with disabilities.  He narrated that everyday thousands of persons commute between Bandra Railway Station, on Bandra East side towards MHADA End. This segment faces a junction which has a flow of heavy traffic as pedestrians are required to also cross the Western Express Highway. He has submitted that there is only one pavement which is required to be used by these commuters which gets unimaginably crowded, thereby creating a routine situation of accidents taking place and that such a chaotic situation is totally against the interest of the commuters. 

The HC had on an earlier hearing dated 20 March 2023 observed that commuter safety is paramount and any mishap occurring due to non-availability of a safe footpath or walkway would amount to a breach of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution to the citizens. The bench noted the Central and Western railways as also the Metro have provided such mechanisms at several railway stations, including escalators. Asking the BMC to consider it too, the bench said, “Benefits of modern technology need to be made available to the commuters, to maketheir commuting life in Mumbai more easier and comfortable. ” 

“We are sure that such aspects as highlighted by us would be considered and borne in mind by the MCGM in consultation with all other authorities, so that not only the proposed skywalk but also all existing skywalks in the city are made ideal, for their best possible utility, so as to achieve the purpose for which they are constructed,” 

The steps being taken by the MCGM and more particularly, that within a period of 15 months from the date of award of the contract, the entire work of restoration of the sky-walk in question would be completed, is a welcome measure being taken by the MCGM. We accordingly dispose of this petition accepting the statements as made in the reply affidavit and permitting the MCGM to progress the work with all expediency, expresed the court in its order disposign off the petition. 

Read the judgement:

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Supreme Court directs Consortium of National Law Universities to provide Scribe to those who are unable to find scribe, among other reliefs.

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench:  Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Chief Justice of India; Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha, Justice  and  J B Pardiwala, Justice

Case Number: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1109 of 2022

Case Title: Arnab Roy Versus Consortium of National Law Universities & Anr.

Date of Judgement: 17 March 2023

Cases Reffered: 

 1. Vikash Kumar Vs Union Public Service Commission & Ors.


The petitioner,  a lawyer and a disability rights activist, moved these proceedings under Article 32 of the Constitution of India challenging certain conditions which were imposed for the conduct of the Common Law Admission Test 2023 scheduled on 18 December 2022. The issue specifically addressed by the petitioner relates to the facilities for candidates who intend to avail of a scribe as the restrictive conditons have been imposed belatedly just four weeks before the exams which in turn would mean that atleast 13 visually impaired candidates would not be able to avail the scribe. This included denial of the right to a scribe to candidates who do not have a benchmark disability though they have a genuine difficulty in writing.

The Supreme Court bench  in this matter has taken a progressive stance while dealing with the Examination Guidelines to ensure equal opportunities for candidates with disabilities in the LL.B admissions process particularly about provisions for necessary accommodations and support to participate in the CLAT examination . 

The bench clarified that candidates appearing for the CLAT (Common Law Admission Test) examination conducted by Consortium of National Law Universities can either bring their own scribe or if it is not possible to do so, request the Consortium to provide a scribe who is then made available to the candidate.  Where the candidates are unable to find their own scribe and the Consortium provides a scribe, at least two days’ time should be provided so as to enable the candidate to interact with the scribe, directed the court.

The bench, headed by the Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud  passed several directions to guarantee that candidates with disabilities receive all the facilities specified by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,Govt. of India. The Court accepted the suggestion of the petitioner and emphasized the importance of issuing guidelines well in advance, ensuring clarity regarding the facilities available for candidates with disabilities.

Additionally, the bench also directed the consortium to align their guidelines with the official memorandum issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. While there were concerns that the condition of scribes not being involved in coaching for other competitive exams would limit the availability of scribes, the Court has allowed the consortium's request to ensure the sanctity of the CLAT exam. However, it also highlighted that the nature and contents of the Examination Guidelines cannot be frozen for the future. The Consortium would be at liberty to modify the Guidelines bearing in mind the exigencies of the situation and the constantly evolving nature of the knowledge and experience gained in conducting CLAT particularly in the context of the rights of PwD candidates.

This judgement is a significant step towards promoting inclusivity and equal opportunities in legal education. The Consortium of NLUs was established to enhance the standards of legal education and coordination among National Law Schools, and this decision aligns with their objective.

This judgement will undoubtedly create a more inclusive and fair admission process for aspiring law students with disabilities in line with the intention of the legislature behind passing the RPWD Act 2016.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Madras HC- Motor Vehicle Tax Exemptions to disabled can not be subject to condition that it is driven by the disabled himself [Judgement Included]

Court: Madras High Court (Madurai Bench)

Bench: Hon`ble Ms. Justice P.T. ASHA

Case No: WP(MD).1480/2023

Case Title: Angappan Vs. The Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu 

Date of Order/Judgement:  13/03/2023


One Mr. Angappan claiming to have 80% locomotor disability had approached the court after the Regional Transport Officer, Pudukottai had rejected his application for tax exemption. The officers had demanded production of the disability certificate and a certificate stating that the Angappan can drive the vehicle. They also sought for a certificate from the Retro Fitment Centre, which had adapted the vehicle. Though the certificates were produced, his application was rejected. The authorities however countered this claim by submitting that the tax exemption was available only for self driven vehicles. 

Clearing a misconception that persons with disabilities (PwD) would be exempted from paying tax for their motor vehicles only if they drive the vehicle, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court recently came to the rescue of Mr. Angappan, a person with 80% locomotor disability who, when he applied for tax exemption for registration of his car, was asked to produce a certificate that he could drive the car.

The court noted that the authorities had in fact misconstrued the provisions of the Government Order. The stand that tax exemption was available only for self driven vehicles was a misconception. Further, the court noted that in the present case, there were no major alterations as contemplated in the Act. The only alteration was for the easy ingress and egress of Angappan. Thus, the court held that Angappan was eligible for tax exemption and directed the authorities to grant the said exemption to him while alowing his petition. 

The Governmetnof Tamil Nadu Home (Transport -T) Department had passed a GO in December 1976 exempting persons with physical disabilities from paying tax for motor vehicles that are specifically designed or adapted for their use, provided that the said vehicles are used only by persons with disabilities. However, the purpose of the GO has been totally misconstrued by the authorities, the judge observed.

“They have understood the notification to be available only to motor vehicles, which are driven by the physically challenged persons themselves. This is an absolute misconception. The said notification is issued in tune with the definition of an ‘adapted vehicle’ as provided in Section 2 (1) of the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Act. The only condition prescribed is that the vehicle should be ‘used’ by the person, for whose use the vehicle has been adapted. Nowhere does it state that it should be driven by the said person,” the judge clarified.

"Neither the definition under Section 2(1) nor Section 52 specifies that it is the person, for whose purpose, the adaption is made, who should ride the vehicle. On the contrary, the definition of adapted vehicle makes it clear that the vehicle should be used solely by or “for such person”.

Justice Asha thus opined that the State should ensure that such persons who are granted exemption enjoy the same and added as below:

“Where a rule or regulation purports to grant a right to a particular section of society, courts must use the rule of purposive interpretation to ensure that the object of beneficial legislation reaches the intended section of the society,” 

The government order, read along with Section 2 (1) and Section 52 of the Act, clearly spells out that a physically challenged person, who owns a vehicle and has adapted the vehicle for his or her use, is entitled to the tax exemption, the judge added and allowed the petition.

Read the order /Judgement dated 13 Mar 2023 below:

Monday, March 6, 2023

DHC directs Delhi Govt. to undertake Special Recruitment Drive To Fill Up Vacancies For PwDs

Court: Delhi High Court
Case No. : W.P.(C) 8455/2017
Date of Judgement: 06.03.2023
Neutral Citation Number: 2023/DHC/001652


While disposing off a public interest litigation filed by National Federation of the Blind alleging inaction on the part of the Delhi Govt. in implementing reervation for persons with disabilities particularly persons with visual disabilities, a division bench of the Delhi High Court directed Chief Secretary of the Government of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) to undertake a special recruitment drive for filling up backlog of vacancies for persons with disabilities (calculated rom 1996 when the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 was enforced @ 3% and from 2017 till date @ 4% in various departments or establishments in a time bound manner. 

The division bench also set out a time schedule to be followed by the GNCTD to carry out the special recruitment for filling up the vacancies. Directing the concerned departments, the court said, “The notification of advertisement by DSSSB/ UPSC, as the case may be, for filling up back-log of vacancies for persons with benchmark disabilities against requisition sent to them be issued within 30 days from the date of receiving requisition. The DSSSB/ UPSC, as the case may, shall declare the result and the process of appointment be concluded within a period of 30 days from the date of declaration of result/ interview.”

Read the detailed Judgement below:

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Disabeld Candidates selected on own merit in open competition can't be adjusted against Reserved Disability Quota Vacancies.

Court: Supreme Court of India

Case: Civil Appeal No (s). 3303/2015  (arising out of Delhi HC Order dated October 11, 2013 in W.P.(C) 4902/2013 titled Union of India Vs. Pankaj Kumar Srivastava & Anr. )

Case Title: Union of India (Appellant)  Vs.  Pankaj Kumar Srivastava & Anr. (Respondent(s))

Date of Order: 01 March 2023

Brief Background:

In a significant development, the Central Government recently acknowledged before the Supreme Court that disabled candidates selected based on their own merit in open competition, alongside unreserved candidates, will no longer be counted within the 4% disability quota for public sector employment. This change is expected to result in more disabled candidates with lower merit rankings being chosen within the disability quota, ultimately increasing the overall representation of individuals with disabilities in public sector positions. 

This "own merit" principle for disabled candidates had been outlined in several DOPT Memorandums & other govt. circulars on reservations for persons  with disabilities previously, but it was not consistently followed by various public sector recruiting bodies. Shri Pankaj Kumar Srivastava, a visually impaired candidate, raised this grievance before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). He alleged that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) was not adhering to the principle of own merit for the Civil Services Examination. Several disabled candidates, despite their merit ranking in the unreserved category, were being placed within the disability quota. If they had been categorized as unreserved, Mr. Srivastava, next in line in terms of merit, would have secured selection within the disability quota.

In the case, the UPSC argued that the "own merit" principle couldn't be applied to disabled candidates due to their relaxed medical standards and the use of accommodations such as scribes and extra time for examinations. However, both the CAT and the Delhi High Court disagreed with the UPSC's stance, directing a re-evaluation of the disability quota for the relevant year by moving "own merit" disabled candidates into the open category. 

The UPSC argued that the principle of general merit as evolved by the judicial pronouncements and incorporated in the DoPT OM dated December 29, 2005 is incapable of application in respect of PH Category as the medical standards are incapable of being relaxed for application of the said principle. The principle is unworkable in the scenario of reservation in favour of differently abled persons. The term relaxed standard has not been defined in case of persons with disability and no illustration of relaxed standards as given in respect of SC/ST have been provided in case of person with disability. And that a PwD candidate who would fail medical examination would not be adjusted against the unreserved vacancy and could not be counted on merits. If medical requirements are not relaxed it would not be possible to allocate service to the persons with disability. And lastly a PH category candidate cannot be a general merit candidates because at least he has to avail one or the other relaxation in the medical parameters.  

The Delhi HC said, "There cannot be two opinions about the applicability of the principle of general merit in the light of the Office Memorandum dated December 29, 2005 and April 26, 2006 issued by the petitioner itself. The same is the situation reflected in the mandate under Rule 17 of the CSE Rules 2008. Thus it is not possible for the petitioner to contend before us that there is an error in the order of the Tribunal in issuing directions to consider the entitlement of the applicants on the basis of said principle. We affirm the view taken by the Tribunal with regard to its observation that grant of the facility of scribe and extra time of 30 minutes in the examination to the visually impaired candidates does not amount to relaxation of standards in their favour. The omission on the part of the executive i.e. DOPT which is the Nodal Department to issue Office Memorandum/Executive Instructions on matters pertaining to the Central Service has created a situation wherein the benefit is sought to be given on the one hand through the issuance of Office Memorandum(s) dated December 29, 2005 and April 26, 2006, and stands taken away by the other hand as a result of the inaction to issue the consequential amendment contemplated by Rule 17 of the CSE Rules, 2008.

The court further said that the Petitioner (Govt.) has itself caused a situation, whereby the entitlements which ought to have been available to the differently abled persons as early as on February 07, 1996 (the date of the commencement of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995) are being denied to them till today. The situation points out to a grim scenario which is the creation of the petitioner itself. The bench directed the Govt. to make the amendments as contemplated by Rule 17 fo CSE Rules 2008 and upheld the order of the CAT.

Appeal before the Supreme Court:

The matter was further appealed by UPSC in the Supreme Court of India which also rejected the UPSC's position and instructed the Government of India to issue a clarificatory circular to enforce the own merit principle. In compliance, the Government issued an clarifying Office Memorandum on September 27, 2022 on subject: Reservation for Persons with Benchmark Disabilities - Clarification with regard to the concept of own merit.

During the hearing on March 1, 2023, the Supreme Court directed that the OM dated 27 September 2022 be followed in all future selection processes strictly.

Access the Delhi High Court Judgement in W.P.(C) 4902/2013 titled Union of India Vs. Pankaj Kumar Srivastava & Anr.:

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Madras HC raps a private school for refusing to admit a child with autism

Court:  High Court of Judicature at Madras

Bench: Hon'ble Jutice C.V. Karthikeyan

Case No.: W.P. No. 24973 of 2022

Case Title: The Child Vs. State of Tamilnadu 

Date of Judgement:  22.02.2023


Fuming over the denial of admission to a special needs child, the Madras High Court rapped a school run in the name of a missionary for not following the principles of the missionary and betraying her name and Christian faith.

Justice CV Karthikeyan made the comments while disposing of a petition filed by a minor child who was denied admission at a popular missionary school in Vellore. Quoting previous judgments on admitting children with special needs in schools under the right to education act, the judge said the courts have always been sensitive to children with special needs, expressing hope that educational institutions would not betray children with special needs.

“The sixth respondent (school) has failed not only in this duty but also betrayed the name of the noble Missionary and extremely, extremely distressingly their Christian faith,” he deplored. The order was passed on the petition filed by the minor child, represented by her mother, currently residing at Gandhi Nagar, Katpadi in Vellore, seeking orders from the school to admit the child.

The child, diagnosed with mild autism spectrum disorder, was earlier admitted to a CBSE school in Padur. After the covid lockdown, the child developed some difficulties and was taken to the National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMED) at Kovalam in Chennai.

The mother, a government officer, got transferred to Vellore and the father resigned from his job to take care of the child before the child was at the CMC Hospital in Vellore in 2021 for assessment and was confirmed special needs child.

After several schools denied admission citing a lack of special educators, the mother approached the missionary school in 2022 for admission. After holding a written examination and an interview with the child, the school refused admission saying that it had no special educators to take care of the child.

The mother, in her affidavit, stated that the website of the school had sported messages about having special teachers to support students with special education needs. Aggrieved over the denial of admission, she approached the concerned government authorities before moving to the High Court.

The judge said the sixth respondent/school is quite pathetically and ironically named after a third-generation American Medical Missionary in India. It makes him wonder whether those in administration today are riding on that name without following her principles or the core conduct which the noble lady adhered to.

Saying that the missionary, who lived between 1870 and 1960 dedicated her life to assuaging the plight of Indian women and worked tirelessly helping those afflicted with ‘bubonic plague, cholera and leprosy’, the judge said, “Very very unfortunately, her name is used by an institution which had taken a conscious decision to drive away a child and her parents, who had sought refuge and admission.”

Finding a touch of hollowness in the belated offer of admission to the school, he felt that such an offer should have been given voluntarily. The judge said the court would not stand in the way of decision-making by the mother. 

“I hope that if at all the mother takes a decision to admit the child in the sixth respondent, they would prove false my words expressed above and if they do so, I shall be the most satisfied person. The entire issue is in their hands,” he said concluding the verdict.

Read /Download the Judgement

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Delhi HC appoints Amicus to decide on constituting Special courts under section 84 of RPWD Act for speedy and fair trial for PwDs

Court: Delhi High Court

Bench: Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma

Case No.: W.P.(CRL)  2500 / 2022


Dates of Hearings with Orders : 31 Jan 2023 [PDF 508KB] |  21 Feb 2023 [PDF 168KB] | 20 Mar 2023 (renotified) | 07 Jul 2023 |


Despite an order by the Court of State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (presided by the then SCPD Shri TD Dhariyal) issued in a Suo Motu case No. 988/1141/2019/06/ 3652-3657 Dated: 22 July 2019 and further Notification dated 19 Aug 2019 isued by Department of Law, Justice & Legislative Affairs, Govt. of NCT of Delhi, designating Additional Sessions Judge 02 in all district courts  as Special Courts in Delhi to try offences under the RPWD Act 2016 (PDF 2.9 MB),  the issues seems to be lingering on still. Either the Court & the counsel is not aware of the developments or the Govt. has forgotton its own notification and hasn't yet activated the special courts.

In this case filed by Rakesh Kumar Kalra, a deaf individual, the Delhi High Court has appointed senior advocate N Hariharan as amicus curiae to assist it in deciding the manner in which a special court can be constituted to try offences under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, ensuring a fair and speedy trial for persons with disabilities.

While framing issues for consideration, a single judge bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma on 31 January 2023 appointed Adv Hariharan to assist the court in deciding “how can a special court be constituted as per Section 84 to try offences under Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016”. Hariharan will also be assisting on how a speedy and fair trial for the differently abled persons can be ensured and how the judicial system can be improved for the benefit of the differently abled.

Chapter XIII of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act deals with the special courts to try offences under the Act. Section 84 of the Act states that for the purpose of providing speedy trial, the state government shall, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the high court, by notification, specify for each district, a court of session to be a special court to try the offences under this Act.

Section 85 also provides for the appointment of a public prosecutor for every special court by the state government or the appointment of an advocate, who has been in practice as an advocate for not less than seven years, as a ‘special public prosecutor’ for the purpose of conducting cases in that special court. With respect to offences under the enactment, the Act states that any person who contravenes any provisions of the Act or any rule made thereunder shall for first contravention be punishable with a fine which may extend to Rs 10,000 and for any subsequent contravention with a fine, which shall not be less than Rs 50,000 but which may extend to Rs 5 lakh.

Read the order below:-

Monday, January 23, 2023

Central Administrative Tribunal directs CAG to appoint a meritorious candidate with Mental Illness disability to the post of Auditor

Court: Central Administrative Tribunal, Principal Bench Delhi

Bench:  Hon’ble Mr. Manish Garg, Member (J) & Hon’ble Mr. Anand S. Khati, Member (A)

Case No:    OA No. 339/2022

Case Title: Amit Yadav Vs. Comptroller & Auditor General &Anr. 

Date of Order : 23 January, 2023


The CAT Principal Bench directed the CAG to appoint the applicant with Mental Illness disability to the post of Auditor and added that such persons should be facilitated in a friendly and pleasant way that makes them feel relaxed and calms the nervous system. The bipolar persons neither can be treated with bias nor can be regarded as shame to the society. The court held the approach of the CAG as discriminaotry.

In order to raise awareness on the mental illness as a disability, the bench went on to discuss an illustrative list of celebrities diagnosed with OCD and bipolar disease, who have either talked about or living with the symptoms of the condition, have reached their peaks in their career. Among many people from other other countries, the list also highlighted Deepika Padukone, film actress who faced OCD during her career.  

The applicant is a person with benchmark disability (PwBD) having a disability of 55% under the Mental illness category suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) & Bipolar disorder. He has been on medication for the same since 2017.

He appeared in the recruitment process and successfully qualified the exam and was recommended for appointment as Auditor in Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. But the CAG returned his dossiers to SSC on 28.09.2019 claiming that the applicant is not suitable for the post of Auditor and that he may be re-allocated to any other suitable department.

That Section 34 provides for another 1% reservation jointly for two new recognized categories PwBDs under clauses (d) & (e) of sub-section 1 of Section 34. PwBDs with Autism, Intellectual Disability, Mental Illness (MI), Specific Learning Disability (SLD) have been categorized under clause (d) & Multiple Disabilities under clause (e).

The SSC in its official advertisement dated 05.05.2018 just extended the right of reservation to these newly recognized disability categories under the heading “Other PwD” category  but did not mention specific posts reserved for these new categories. The advertisement provided that vacancies will be notified in due course and the candidates belonging to new categories were asked to apply under “Other PwD category”.   Thus the post of Auditor remained recognized for other PwD which includes mentally ill in both the lists of vacancies notified in due course.

The felt that the Section 34 of the RPWD Act clearly rules that there has to be one percent reservation for the PwDs categorized under clauses (d) and (e) and not (d) or (e) i.e. reservation has to be made available to both the categories under clauses and not either of the two. Therefore, the correct course of action would have been to provide reservation to both the categories i.e. under clause (d) and (e) jointly whoever amongst them secures merit would be allotted the post. In this case, the applicant has been recommended as per correct interpretation of law because he was also qualified in the merit list along with other candidates under Multiple disability falling under clause (e). Thus, in the correct course of action, both should have been appointed against one percent reservation.

Explaining the neded of facilitating persons with Mental Illnesss at workplace, the court said, "Bipolar is mood swings, emotions, impulse, what is needed is right kind of professional assistance and  rehabilitation. The persons having bipolar disease are victim of circumstances. Such persons should be facilitated in a friendly and pleasant way that makes them feel relaxed and calms the nervous system. The bipolar persons neither can be treated with bias nor can be regarded as shame to the society. The stand adopted by intending department, i.e., CAG by itself is discriminated to the provisions of Section 34 of the 2016 Act qua the categories which are sought to be capable of performing function as Auditors. The action of the respondents defeats the purpose of RPWD Act. The paramount interest of the State is to sub-serve the aims and objects of the Act and, therefore, the persons with mental illness without any intelligible differentia cannot be discriminated qua the other diseases which fall in the zone of consideration under the provisions of RPWD Act.

The court while allowing the OA,  held that the return of dossier by CAG to SSC was bad in law and thus quashed and set aside the same. It further said that the applicant is also entitled to the protection of Section 20(4) of the RPwD Act. Thus in the event, applicant is found unsuitable for the post of “Auditor” by the Independent Medical Board, he shall be entitled to alternative offer of appointment to alternative suitable equivalent assignment/post in another department in consultation with Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and SSC while re-assigning/re-allocating the applicant to an alternative post, it become necessary that his pay, emoluments and conditions of service must be protected.

Read the judgement/ order below:

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Delhi HC directs Yash Raj Films to make Pathaan movie accessible by providing audio description and subtitles for visually and hearing impaired users.

Court: High Court of Delhi

Bench: Justice Pratibha M Singh

Case No:    W.P.(C) 445/2023

Case Title: Akshat Baldwa & Ors. Vs. Yash Raj Films & Ors. 

Date of Hearing/Order : 16 January, 2023

Next Date of Hearing: 06 April, 2023


The Delhi High Court on 16 January 2023 directed Yash Raj Films to prepare audio description, close captioning and subtitles in Hindi language for the OTT release of its upcoming movie Pathaan to make it accessible for hearing and visually impaired persons. The movie is scheduled to be released in theatres on January 25 and will be screened on Amazon Prime later in April.

Justice Prathiba M Singh directed the producer Yash Raj Films to prepare audio description, close captioning and subtitles of the movie within two weeks and submit it to Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for a decision on re-certification by February 20. The court directed that a decision on recertification of the film be taken by March 10.

The court was hearing a plea seeking direction to make captions in the movie accessible for visually and hearing impaired persons and sought inclusion of audio description, close captioning and subtitles in the film in consonance with the rights of persons with disabilities.

The plea was moved by various persons with disabilities,  that included  a law student, lawyers and Executive Director of the National Association for the Deaf, seeking enforcement of various rights and accessibility requirements as prescribed under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and that the films released in India are not catering to the needs of the disabled. 

Rahul Bajaj, one of the petitioners appearing in person, submitted that while subtitles having been approved by the CBFC, the audio description and the closed captioning have not been made available and that even subtitling has been made only in English language and not in the language of the movie in question which makes it almost impossible for hearing and visually impaired persons to enjoy the film. Directions were also sought on the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment to notify required standards in this regard.

Noting that the petition raises “very important issues” as to accessibility of entertainment to the hearing and visually impaired persons, the court said that as per Section 42 of RPwD Act, the government has an obligation to take measures to ensure that all content is available in accessible formats for persons with disabilities.

“In the context of films ... special measures would have to be taken for the hearing and visually impaired persons inasmuch as the experience of watching a film in the movie theatre cannot be denied to such persons,” the court said.

Justice Singh also impleaded the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation, Film Producers Association and Ministry of Electronics an Information Technology as respondents in the matter.

Issuing notice to the respondents, the court said they shall place their stands on or before February 28..

“In the meantime, insofar as the theatrical show exhibition of the film, if the producer wishes to do so, they may contact the app providers to explore the possibility of providing audio description and subtitling to be done for future films,” the court said while listing the matter for hearing on April 6.

Below is the Order dated 16 Jan 2023

Judgement reproduced below:
Date of Decision: 16th January, 2023
W.P.(C) 445/2023 & CM APPLs.1752-53/2023
AKSHAT BALDWA & ORS.				..... Petitioners
Through:	Mr. Rahul Bajaj, Petitioner No.2 in person 

	YASH RAJ FILMS & ORS.				..... Respondents
Through:	Mr. Abhishek Malhotra, and Ms. Shrishti Gupta, Advocates for R-1. 
Mr. Chetan Sharma, ASG with Mr. Ravi Prakash, CGSC, Mr. Farman Ali & Ms. Usha Jamal, Advocates for R-2, 2A and 3 
Prathiba M. Singh, J. (Oral)

1.  	This hearing has been done through hybrid mode. 

CM APPL. 1753/2023 (for exemption)
2.	Allowed, subject to all just exceptions. Application is disposed of.

W.P.(C) 445/2023 & CM APPL. 1752/2023
3. The present petition has been filed by four Petitioners who are citizens, out of whom, Petitioner Nos.1, 2 and 4 are visually impaired and Petitioner No.3 is hearing impaired. Petitioner No.1 is a law student at National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, Petitioner Nos.2 and 4 are qualified lawyers. Petitioner No.3 is the Joint Secretary & Executive Director of the National Association for the Deaf.

4. The petition has been filed seeking directions against Respondent No.1 - Yash Raj Films, which is the producer of the film ‘Pathaan’, the two Ministries i.e., Respondent No.2 - Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Respondent No.3 - Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, as also, the Respondent No.4 - Amazon Seller Services Private Limited, which operates an Over-The-Top (hereinafter, “OTT”) platform namely, Amazon Prime Video, on which the said film is stated to be scheduled for release on 28th April, 2023.

5. The Petitioners seek enforcement of various rights and accessibility requirements, as prescribed under the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (hereinafter, “RPWD Act”). The prayers sought in the present petition are extracted below:

“The Petitioners, therefore, pray that in the facts and circumstances of the present case this Hon'ble Court may be pleased to issue writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ or direction to:
A. Directing Respondent No. 1 to provide AD and subtitling/captioning for the movie Pathaan, in theatres, Over-the-Top streaming platforms (through Respondent No. 4) and any other media in which the movie is made available;
B. A direction to Respondent No. 2 and 3 to take appropriate steps in effecting the provision for audio description and subtitling/captioning for the movie Pathaan;
C. A Direction to Respondent No. 2 and 3 to promptly notify standards of accessibility for captioning/subtitling and audio description; and 
Pass such other and further orders / directions / writs as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in the facts and circumstance of the case.”
6. The case of the Petitioners is that, though various rights have been recognized for ‘persons with disabilities’ under the RPWD Act, most films which are released in India are not catering to disabled persons despite the statute having been enacted more than 5-6 years ago.

7.	Mr. Rahul Bajaj, Petitioner No.2 appearing in person, makes the following submissions:
i.	There are various tools that help make films disabled - friendly, but none of them have been implemented in the film ‘Pathaan’.  
ii.	The film ‘Pathaan’ is slated for release in theatres on 25th January, 2023. However, apart from the subtitles having been approved by the Central Board of Film Certification (hereinafter, “CBFC”), the said film does not make available audio description and closed captions. Even the approved subtitles are in the English language, instead of being in the language of the film, i.e., Hindi, and this makes it almost impossible for hearing and visually impaired persons to enjoy the said film.
iii.	The producers of the film ‘Pathaan’ ought to be directed to add the audio description, subtitles, and closed captions, before the release of the said film. 
iv.	The two Ministries, i.e., Respondent Nos.2 and 3, be directed to notify the required standards for accessibility to persons who are hearing and visually impaired. On this aspect, he submits that even though certain guidelines have been issued in the past, the same have not been implemented by the Ministries, and there are no sanctions for non-compliance of the same. Thus, a large number of films do not take the necessary steps to provide these tools which make the films disabled-friendly. 
v.	Reliance is placed upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in Rajive Raturi v. Union of India, [(2018) 2 SCC 413].
vi.	Further reliance is placed upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in Vikash Kumar v. UPSC and Ors., [2021 SCC Online SC 84]. 
8. On a specific query from the Court as to how visually impaired persons are able to enjoy films in a theatre, Mr. Bajaj submits that, in certain foreign countries, the theatres themselves make provisions for headphones to be plugged into the seats in the theatre, through which audio description is relayed in an audio format. However, in India, such facilities are not available in most film theatres. Despite this being the position, persons with visual impairment can enjoy the audio description of the films through certain mobile applications which can be downloaded on a smartphone, so long as the producer has an arrangement with the said mobile applications and provides the requisite audio description of the film to the application. It is submitted that there are two mobile applications available in India, namely, ‘XL Cinema’ and ‘Shazacin’, which provide such facilities for visually impaired persons.

9.	On behalf of the Respondent No.1 - Producer - Yash Raj Films, Mr. Abhishek Malhotra, ld. Counsel makes the following submissions:
i.	The film ‘Pathaan’ has already been approved by the CBFC. At the time of approval, the Producer has already submitted the subtitles for the film in the English language. The Producer has also received the certification for the film, which is slated to be released in theatres on 25th January, 2023. 
ii.	The Producers have entered into an arrangement with the OTT platform - Amazon Prime Video, for the OTT release of the film ‘Pathaan’ which is stated to be scheduled on 28th April, 2023. 
iii.	In principle, the stand of the Producers is that it would be willing to take any reasonable steps which may be required in order to ensure that its films are enjoyed by hearing and visually impaired persons as well. 
10. On behalf of the Respondent Nos.2 and 3 - Ministries, it is pointed by ld. Counsel that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued certain directions to the Film Producers Association, as also, to the CBFC, way back in October, 2019, to use audio description and subtitles/closed captions in all films. Since he is appearing on advance notice, ld. Counsel wishes to seek instructions as to the actual status of the said directions which have been issued, and the implementation thereof.

11. None appears for Respondent No.4 - Amazon Seller Services Private Limited. Accordingly, issue notice to Respondent No.4 through all permissible modes.

12. Heard. This Court is of the opinion that the present petition raises very important issues as to the accessibility to various modes of entertainment for the hearing and visually impaired persons. A reading of Section 42 of the RPWD Act, 2016 shows that the Government has an obligation to take measures to ensure that all content is available in formats accessible to persons with disabilities. The said provision is set out below:
“42. Access to information and communication technology.—The appropriate Government shall take measures to ensure that,— 
(i) all contents available in audio, print and electronic media are in accessible format; 
(ii) persons with disabilities have access to electronic media by providing audio description, sign language interpretation and close captioning; 
(iii) electronic goods and equipment which are meant for every day use are available in universal design.”
13.	In the context of films, the measures that can be taken by film producers to make them accessible to the hearing and visually impaired persons, are as under:
Audio description - which implies the verbal depiction of key visual elements in media and live productions. This involves description of the visuals on screen to enable imagination by the hearing (read visually) impaired;
Subtitling - which provides a text alternative for the dialogue of video footage – the spoken words of characters, narrators and other vocal participants, in the original language itself, as also, in the dubbed language in case of dubbed movies; and 
Closed Captions - which not only supplement dialogue but other relevant parts of the soundtrack – describing background noises, phones ringing, and other audio cues that need describing, 
These features would be integral to the enjoyment of films for persons with disabilities.

14.	In view of the above, special measures would have to be taken for the hearing and visually impaired persons, inasmuch as the experience of watching a film in a movie theatre cannot be denied to persons with disabilities. This is particularly true in view of the fact that the technology for the same is readily available. As submitted by Mr. Bajaj, several films in the past, such as Dangal, Black, Munna Bhai MBBS, are stated to have incorporated audio descriptions, subtitles and closed captions for the hearing and visually impaired persons. 
15.	Thus, considering the reliefs sought, there are two aspects that would be required to be considered:
i.	Firstly, directions insofar as the film ‘Pathaan’ is concerned, to make the said film comply with the prescribed accessibility standards, to the extent possible; and
ii.	Secondly, an overall solution that has to be found to ensure the implementation of the statutory provisions and other directions, to make films disabled-friendly for the hearing and visually impaired.
16.	The position of law as to the right to accessibility has been reiterated by Justice A.K. Sikri, speaking for the Supreme Court, in Rajive Raturi v. Union of India, [(2018) 2 SCC 413], wherein the Court observed as under:
“12) The vitality of the issue of ‘Accessibility’ vis-a-vis visually disabled persons’ right to life can be gauged clearly by this Court’s judgment in State of Himachal Pradesh & Anr. v. Umed Ram Sharma, where the right to life under Article 21 has been held broad enough to incorporate the right to accessibility. Relevant paragraphs of this judgment have been reproduced below:
“Read in the background of Article 38(2) every person has right under Article 19(1)(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India.  He has also the right under Article 21 to his life which embraces not only physical existence of life but the quality of life and for residents of hilly areas, access to road is access to life itself. Therefore, to the residents of the hilly areas as far as feasible and possible society has constitutional obligation to provide roads for communication in reasonable conditions. Denial of that right would be denial of the life as understood in its richness and fullness by the ambit of the Constitution.
  *    *    *
11. …..
13) Right to dignity, which is ensured in our Constitutional set up for every citizen applies with much more vigour in case of persons suffering from disability and, therefore, it becomes imperative to provide such facilities so that these persons also are ensured level playing field and not only they are able to enjoy life meaningfully, they contribute to the progress of the nation as well. In a recent judgment in Jeeja Ghosh v. Union of India, these aspects were highlighted by this Court in the following form:
37.  The rights that are guaranteed to differently-abled persons under the 1995 Act, are founded on the sound principle of human dignity which is the core value of human right and is treated as a significant facet of right to life and liberty. Such a right, now treated as human right of the persons who are disabled, has its roots in Article 21 of the Constitution. Jurisprudentially, three types of models for determining the content of the constitutional value of human dignity are recognised. These are: (i) Theological Models, (ii) Philosophical Models, and (iii) Constitutional Models. Legal scholars were called upon to determine the theological basis of human dignity as a constitutional value and as a constitutional right. Philosophers also came out with their views justifying human dignity as core human value. Legal understanding is influenced by theological and philosophical views, though these two are not identical. Aquinas and Kant discussed the jurisprudential aspects of human dignity based on the aforesaid philosophies. Over a period of time, human dignity has found its way through constitutionalism, whether written or unwritten. Even right to equality is interpreted based on the value of human dignity. Insofar as India is concerned, we are not even required to take shelter under theological or philosophical theories. We have a written Constitution which guarantees human rights that are contained in Part III with the caption “Fundamental Rights”. One such right enshrined in Article 21 is right to life and liberty. Right to life is given a purposeful meaning by this Court to include right to live with dignity. It is the purposive interpretation which has been adopted by this Court to give a content of the right to human dignity as the fulfilment of the constitutional value enshrined in Article 21. Thus, human dignity is a constitutional value and a constitutional goal. What are the dimensions of constitutional value of human dignity? It is beautifully illustrated by Aharon Barak (former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel) in the following manner:
“The constitutional value of human dignity has a central normative role. Human dignity as a constitutional value is the factor that unites the human rights into one whole. It ensures the normative unity of human rights. This normative unity is expressed in the three ways: first, the value of human dignity serves as a normative basis for constitutional rights set out in the Constitution; second, it serves as an interpretative principle for determining the scope of constitutional rights, including the right to human dignity; third, the value of human dignity has an important role in determining the proportionality of a statute limiting a constitutional right.” 
xxx xxx xxx
40. In international human rights law, equality is founded upon two complementary principles: non-discrimination and reasonable differentiation. The principle of non-discrimination seeks to ensure that all persons can equally enjoy and exercise all their rights and freedoms. Discrimination occurs due to arbitrary denial of opportunities for equal participation. For example, when public facilities and services are set on standards out of the reach of persons with disabilities, it leads to exclusion and denial of rights. Equality not only implies preventing discrimination (example, the protection of individuals against unfavourable treatment by introducing anti-discrimination laws), but goes beyond in remedying discrimination against groups suffering systematic discrimination in society. In concrete terms, it means embracing the notion of positive rights, affirmative action and reasonable accommodation. The move from the patronising and paternalistic approach to persons with disabilities represented by the medical model to viewing them as members of the community with equal rights has also been reflected in the evolution of international standards relating specifically to disabilities, as well as in moves to place the rights of persons with disabilities within the category of universal human rights. (See Report of United Nations Consultative Expert Group Meeting on International Norms and Standards Relating to Disability, 10-2-2001.) 
xxx xxx xxx
43. All these rights conferred upon such persons send an eloquent message that there is no question of sympathising with such persons and extending them medical or other help. What is to be borne in mind is that they are also human beings and they have to grow as normal persons and are to be extended all facilities in this behalf. The subject of the rights of persons with disabilities should be approached from human rights perspective, which recognised that persons with disabilities were entitled to enjoy the full range of internationally guaranteed rights and freedoms without discrimination on the ground of disability. This creates an obligation on the part of the State to take positive measures to ensure that in reality persons with disabilities get enabled to exercise those rights. There should be insistence on the full measure of general human rights guarantees in the case of persons with disabilities, as well as developing specific instruments that refine and give detailed contextual content of those general guarantees. There should be a full recognition of the fact that persons with disability were integral part of the community, equal in dignity and entitled to enjoy the same human rights and freedoms as others. It is a sad commentary that this perception has not sunk in the mind and souls of those who are not concerned with the enforcement of these rights. The persons suffering from mental or physical disability experience and encounter nonpareil form of discrimination. They are not looked down by people. However, they are not accepted in the mainstream either even when people sympathise with them. Most common, their lives are handicapped by social, cultural and attitudinal barriers which hamper their full participation and enjoyment of equal rights and opportunities. This is the worst form of discrimination which the disabled feel as their grievance is that others do not understand them.
xxx xxx xxx
46. It is the common experience of several persons with disabilities that they are unable to lead a full life due to societal barriers and discrimination faced by them in employment, access to public spaces, transportation, etc. Persons with disability are the most neglected lot not only in the society but also in the family. More often they are an object of pity. There are hardly any meaningful attempts to assimilate them in the mainstream of the nation's life. The apathy towards their problems is so pervasive that even the number of disabled persons existing in the country is not well documented.”
17.	Similar is the view taken by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, speaking for the Supreme Court in Vikash Kumar v. UPSC and Ors., [2021 SCC Online SC 84], wherein the Court held that the State, as also, private parties are mandated to provide reasonable accommodation to persons with disabilities. The relevant extracts of the said judgment are set out below:
“44 The principle of reasonable accommodation 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 concept of reasonable accommodation is developed in section (H) below. For the present, suffice it to say that, for a person with disability, the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to equality, the six freedoms and the right to life under Article 21 will ring hollow if they are not given this additional support that helps make these rights real and meaningful for them. Reasonable accommodation is the instrumentality – are an obligation as a society – to enable the disabled to enjoy the constitutional guarantee of equality and non- discrimination. In this context, it would be apposite to remember Justice R M Lodha’s (as he then was) observation in Sunanda Bhandare Foundation v. Union of India, where he stated:
“9…In the matters of providing relief to those who are differently abled, the approach and attitude of the executive must be liberal and relief oriented and not obstructive or lethargic…
53.   While most of the obligations under the 2016 RPwD Act are cast upon the government or local authorities, the Act and rules made under it have also imposed certain obligations on the private sector. The role of the private sector in the market has increased manifold since the advent of liberalisation in India. The RPwD Act 2016 recognizes that with the burgeoning role of the private sector in generating employment in India, an active responsibility has to be cast upon private employers to create an inclusive workforce by providing persons with disabilities equal opportunities in the job market. However, the guarantee of equal opportunity must be accompanied by the provision of reasonable accommodation. The Rules framed under the 2016 RPwD Act stipulate that private establishments shall not discriminate against persons with disability on the ground of disability. It is to be noted that the definition of discrimination under Section 2(h) of the 2016 RPwD Act includes denial of reasonable accommodation. Private employers are mandated to frame an equal opportunity policy. Equal opportunity policies for establishments having more than 20 employees are required to include provisions relating to (i) appointment of liaison officers in establishments to look after the recruitment of persons with disabilities and provisions of facilities and amenities for such employees; (ii) identification of posts/vacancies for disabled persons; (iii) provision of additional facilities and benefits such as training facilities, assistive devices, barrier free accessibility, preference in transfer and promotion, allotment of residential accommodation and special leave.  The 2016 RPwD Act further provides that private establishments have to conform with accessibility norms stipulated by the Government with respect to building plans. The 2016 RPwD Act also provides that 5% of the workforce of establishments receiving incentives from the appropriate Government would be comprised of persons having benchmark disability.”
18. A perusal of the above judgments would show that accessibility is crucial and is enforceable as a legal right. Even private parties have to ensure that ‘reasonable accommodation’ measures are taken in order to enable greater accessibility for the hearing and visually impaired persons. Though accessibility in the case of Rajive Raturi (supra) is in the context of access to buildings, transportation etc., accessibility to information, technology and entertainment, is equally important. A hearing or visually impaired person, may get easy physical access to a film theatre but may not be able to enjoy the film at all, if the measures to make it enjoyable are not taken by the other stakeholders, including producers, theatre managers, OTT platforms, etc. The State has an obligation to ensure that all steps, that are reasonably possible, are taken in this direction.
Interim Directions:
19.	Thus, in the interim, it is directed as under:
a.	Insofar as the theatrical release of the film ‘Pathaan’ is concerned, since the said film is slated for release on 25th January, 2023, no directions are being passed. 
b.	However, insofar as the release of the film ‘Pathaan’ on the Respondent No.4’s ‘Amazon’ OTT platform is concerned, the following directions are issued:
i.	The Respondent No.1 - Producer shall prepare the audio description, the subtitles in the Hindi language, as also, the closed captions in both English and Hindi languages, and submit that same to the CBFC for approval, by 20th February, 2023.
ii.	Upon the same being submitted, the CBFC shall consider the re-certification of the film ‘Pathaan’, along with the audio description, the subtitles in the Hindi language, and the closed captions in both English and Hindi languages. 
iii.	CBFC shall take a decision on re-certification of the said film by 10th March, 2023. 
c.	If the Respondent No.1 - Producer wishes to enable greater accessibility for the film ‘Pathaan’, in theatres, it may contact the operators of the mobile applications ‘XL Cinema’ and ‘Shazacin’, or other similar applications, if any, to explore the possibility of providing audio description, subtitles, and closed captions.
d.	Insofar as the issue of having an overall and holistic solution to the questions raised in the present petition is concerned, it is deemed appropriate to implead the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) as Respondent No.5 in the present petition. In addition, the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA) shall also be impleaded in this matter as Respondent No.6.  Issue notice to the newly impleaded Respondent Nos.5 and 6, without payment of process fee, through the following particulars: 
Respondent No.5:
Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF)
Address: C-301, C-302 & C-303, Ansal Plaza, Third Floor,
Khel Gaon Marg, New Delhi - 110 049, India.
Mobile No.:  +91 11 4379 4400, Email: 
Respondent No.6:
Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA)
Address: G-1 to 7, Crescent Tower, Off New Link Road 
Oshiwara, Nr. Dhiraj Gaurav Heights, Andheri West Mumbai, 
Mumbai City, MH 400053 
Phone No.: 022 62390666 / 022 62390777 / 022 62390888
Mobile No.: 8879031147 / 771507277       
e.	Considering the nature of the reliefs sought in this matter, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is also impleaded as Respondent No.2(a). Mr. Farman Ali, ld. Counsel accepts notice on behalf of Respondent Nos. 2(a) as well. 

20. Let an amended memo of parties be filed on behalf of the Petitioners, within one week. Upon the amended memo of parties being filed, let the Registry serve notice to Respondent Nos.4, 5 and 6.

21. Let a status report be placed on record in respect of the directions issued above and in response to the writ petition, by Mr. Ali, ld. Counsel for Respondent Nos.2, 2(a) and 3, by the next date of hearing.

22. Let the counter affidavit be filed by Respondent No.1 - Yash Raj Films, within four weeks. Upon the service of notice by the Registry, the Respondent Nos.4, 5 and 6 shall also file their counter affidavits placing their stand before this Court, on or before 28th February, 2023. Rejoinders thereto, if any, be filed by the Petitioners, by 15th March, 2023.

23. List on 6th April, 2023, on top of the board in the advance list, for receiving the status report on behalf of the Respondent Nos.2, 2(a) and 3 - Union of India, as also, counter affidavits on behalf of Respondent Nos.1, 4, 5 and 6.

JANUARY 16, 2023

Friday, January 13, 2023

Supreme Court issued notice to Centre on a PIL seeking constitution of District Level Committee for enforcement RPWD Act

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha

Case Title: Seema Girija Lal And Anr. v. Union of India And Ors. 

Case No.: Writ Petition (Civil) Diary No(s). 29329/2021 

Date of Order: 13 Jan 2023

Next Date of Hearing: 17 July 2023


A Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) issued notice to the Union of India and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in a plea seeking enforcement of rights of persons with disabilities by constituting District Level Committees for each district to implement the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 [“RPwD Act”].

The petitioner,  a member of a group called “Together We Can” which is forum for parents, professionals, and other stakeholders working for rights of children with disabilities. 

The petition highlighted that the RPwD Act inter alia recognise the need to have a micro level selfcheck mechanism to ensure the needs of persons with disabilities are met and the Act is properly implemented at the lowest level. Section 72 of the RPwD Act envisages constitution of a ‘District-Level Committee’ [“DLC”] for each district for this purpose. These DLCs are meant to comprise of not just state officials but also respectable members of the local community. DLCs give teeth to the RPwD Act. Having a grassroot-level supervisory body like the DLC in place can be the safest way to ensure enforcement of the provisions of a statute.

The bench in its order stated –

"Petitioner has highlighted that diverse provisions of RPwD Act 2016 haven't been implemented by the States. Petitioners have placed on the record a copy of the fifth meeting of the Central advisory board of disability held on 24 June 2022 under the auspices of the Ministry of social Justice and Empowerment.. The
 minutes of the meeting indicate that as of the date of the meeting -

1. Only 10 states had constituted separate departments for dealing with entitlements of persons dealing with disabilities;
2. Only 12 states have independent commissioners;
3. The States of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and Ladakh are yet to notify rules under the statute. They have not constituted the state advisory boards.

The petitioner also submitted that Section 72 of the act which envisaged a District level Committee for each State for the purpose of ensuring that the needs of persons with disabilities are met was yet to be fully implemented. Further, though Section 101(2)(a) empowers the State governments to frame rules regarding the functions of the district level committees, without the formulation of specific rules, the committees would remain ineffective."

Accordingly, the bench issued the following direction –

"We direct that notice shall be issued to Union of India and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The Ministry shall file counter affidavit within a period of a month. The affidavit shall indicate state wise the implementation. Union of India shall convene a meeting with all concerned states and state advisory boards with a view to eliciting the present status of compliance. We request Ms. Divan, ASG to assist. At this stage we're not issuing notice to state govts. Based on affidavits, we'll decide."

Read the Copy of the order below: