[AI] Combat lllllllllllllllaw Article by Rajiv Raturi

Pamnani kanchanpamnani at hotmail.com
Wed May 14 01:53:33 EDT 2008

Disabling, crippling, turning rights lame

The six-decade-old battle for ensuring just rights of the disabled persons starting off from UN declaration of human rights is far from over as the laws framed at home often go unimplemented, writes Rajive Raturi in his introductory piece for this special issue of Combat Law

As many as 70 million disabled people spread across India continue to be treated as second-class citizens. For them segregation, marginalisation and discrimination are norms rather than exception.

Faced with barriers put by stereotyped attitudes, they are generally

viewed as objects of charity and

welfare as the world merrily

goes about trampling

their most basic human

rights. Sadly, this is

so despite the

United Nations

Declaration of

Human Rights in

1948 that makes observance

of human rights a precondition

for ensuring justice,

freedom and peace.


In 1992, India became a

signatory to the

Proclamation on Full

Participation and

Equality of People with

Disabilities in the Asian

and Pacific Region. This

was adopted at Beijing

at a conference convened

by the Economic

and Social Commission

for Asian and Pacific

Region. The proclamation

brought an obligation

upon the country to

enact a law as per its

solemn affirmations. And

so the Persons with

Disabilities (Equal

Opportunities, Protection of

Rights and Full

Participation) Act of 1995

got through Parliament.


Amongst the four

domestic legislations related

to disability it is this Act that

provides entitlements of

rights to persons with disabilities

and mandates the government

to provide facilities for their

full participation. The provisions

under the Act are all very empowering

but unfortunately, even though

the Act was passed over a decade

ago, its implementation remains

woefully inadequate. Those responsible

for its implementation and several

persons with disabilities

often remain

unaware of

the provisions

of the Act.


The Act recognises seven disability

conditions but the provisions on

the various rights and entitlements

are reserved only for the visually,

hearing and orthopaedically

impaired, including those afflicted

by cerebral palsy. Whilst some disability

conditions like autism and

deaf-blind have not been included in

the list of disabilities under the Act,

the general benefits are for all disability



The issue of certification remains

a huge bottleneck for the disabled to

claim entitlement to their rights and

is subject of much concern. The

authorities who are empowered to

issue certificates are not equipped

with the experts and equipment

required to certify all

disability conditions, consequently

you find the hearing

impaired being certified

by voluntary testing

procedures in the

absence of BERA

testing facilities,

persons with multiple


running from one

doctor to another

to have each disability

certified and

no standard procedures

for certifying

the mentally retarded

and the mentally

ill as hospitals do not

have psychiatrics and

psychologists. There

is an urgent need for a

single window for






of certification



The Act is gender neutral and

moreover, one needs to review rights

of the disabled under the PWD Act in

the light of their human rights.

Whilst social rights like access to

health and education have been dealt

with to an extent in the Act, cultural

rights have not been thought of.

Every disabled person is entitled to

participate in cultural activities, have

access to sporting and recreational

opportunities and access to media

and communication.


Civil and political rights too have

not been covered under the PWD

Act. All persons with disabilities

have the right to have equal access to

the law, freedom from cruel and

inhuman treatment, freedom of

expression and access to information,

freedom of association, right to

marry and found a family and participation

in political and public life.


Persons with disabilities have

their civil and political rights violated

often. They are subject to cruel

and inhuman treatment in the very

institutions which have been formed

to protect them, they have no right to

freedom of expression as for instance

the linguistic rights of the deaf are

not recognised and information is

not made available to them in a language

they can comprehend. Even

their right to marry and found a family

is denied as most feel that persons

with severe disabilities cannot marry

and have a family. Often a child is

separated from a mother if she is

found to be of unsound mind and

this is also reason for denying a person

to hold political office and vote.


Several salutary provisions of the

Act are pre-fixed with the words

'within the limits of their economic

capacity'. Can the government use

this as an excuse for doing nothing?

Over 12 years have elapsed since

PWD Act came into force and in all

these years no budgetary provisions

have been made to provide barrier

free features to disabled in transport,

road and the built environment. It is

also absolutely essential that the provisions

for grievance redressal are

strengthened. It has been seen that

orders of the commissioner of persons

with disabilities are often not implemented

and one has to approach the

High Courts for enforcement of their

orders. These offices need to be given

more powers similar to powers vested

with the SC/ST commission and the

national commission for women.

Penal provisions for non-compliance

of the provisions of the Act are an

absolute must.


The United Nations Convention

on the Rights of Persons with

Disability (UNCRPD) which was

finalised as on March 2007, is an international

treaty intended to protect and

promote the rights and dignity of persons

with disability all over the world.

The first human rights convention of

the 21st century, the UNCRPD marks

a shift in attitudes and approaches to

persons with disabilities.


On October 2, 2007 India became

the sixth country to ratify this

Convention and upon the 20th nation

ratifying the Convention, India will

have to amend its laws wherever

necessary, in order to bring them in

consonance with this Convention.

Thereafter the true struggle for the

implementation of the provisions for

protection of human rights of the disabled

in India will commence.


It is in this backdrop that this special

issue of the Combat Law dedicated

to disability has been contemplated

in collaboration with Human

Rights Law Network.


HRLN works across disability

and provides a common platform to

all disability groups to voice their

concerns and this special issue of

Combat Law is part of this endeavour.

We have attempted to give a fair

representation to all groups to raise

issues of concern as reflected through

the articles that follow.


—The writer is national director,

Disability Rights Initiative, Human

Rights Law Network, New Delhi

Email: dvi.delhi at hrln.org




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