‘State officials must be aware of PwD rights’

Strong words: The HC said the rights of persons with disabilities cannot be defeated by a refusal to implement the law.

Strong words: The HC said the rights of persons with disabilities cannot be defeated by a refusal to implement the law.   | Photo Credit: V_sudershan

High Court directs govt. to invite experts to address officers

The Bombay High Court has directed the government to organise training workshops and awareness programmes for its officials on the rights of persons with disabilities (PwDs). “We feel that holding of programmes for the awareness of the officers of the State should be made compulsory,” the court said.

A Division Bench of Justices S.C. Dharmadhikari and R.I. Chagla was hearing two public interest litigations (PILs) filed by Rashtriya Apang Vikas Mahasangh in 2012 and All India Handicapped Development Foundation in 2016. The PILs sought implementation of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, which was preceded by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

The Bench observed, “We see a general lack of sensitivity, much less duty towards the disabled. This comes because there is no awareness of the fact that persons with disabilities have rights.” Additional government pleader G.W. Mattos said the State government is aware of the situation on the ground and will do everything to fulfil the mandate of the Act.

State-wide workshops

The court said, “We expect the head of the State, particularly the highest executive functionary, namely the Chief Secretary, to ensure that there are training programmes and workshops organised throughout the State to make officials aware of the Act.” The Bench said the rights of PwDs “cannot be frustrated and defeated by a lacklustre attitude and refusal to implement the law”.

The court said all efforts have to be made for the effective implementation and enforcement of the law. The Bench added that the law can be only implemented when officials of the State and those in-charge of municipal governance and civic affairs become aware of the rights of PwDs. The government has to spread awareness by conducting training programmes across the State, the court said.

The Bench said the workshops be conducted on a non-working day. It said, “It would be a full and complete day-long programme and a session in which all the aspects of this legislation would be duly discussed and deliberated upon.” The court said experts in the field need to be invited, including legal professionals, to address the officers.

The order read, “It is possible that a disabled or differently-abled person may not be aware of his/her rights, but he/she should not be deprived of the necessary assistance and support because of lack of sensitivity of his/her colleagues and the public at large.”

‘Involve all departments’

The court directed that the awareness programmes be organised by all major departments of the State government under the auspices of the Department of Social Justice. The Bench said, “We place these matters on the supplementary board on December 10, 2019. By that time we hope and expect that, firstly, there will be a Government in place and secondly, the programmes will be undertaken by the Department of Social Justice in consultation with other Departments and Wings of the State.”

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Printable version | Jul 15, 2020 6:00:07 PM |

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