Post office opens ‘Lunatic Account’ for autistic man, plaint lodged 

Published - November 22, 2023 12:32 am IST - Chennai

Citing a colonial era legislation, the Department of Posts is continuing the insensitive practice of classifying as “Lunatic Account”, savings or other deposit accounts opened in the names of persons living with autism and intellectual disabilities.

A senior citizen had approached the GKM Postal Colony Post Office in Chennai some months ago to open a savings account and term deposit account in the name of his autistic son, who is a telecom family pensioner.

In view of his son’s intellectual disability, he had requested to open a Guardian Operated Account, furnishing his son’s National Disability Identity Card and the Guardianship Certificate given under National Trust Act.

However, a postal official expressed inability to open such an account stating the system would not accept the data pertaining to the ‘Guardian’ as the son was an adult.

His appeals to higher officials did not yield any response. Eventually, he was shocked that a postal savings account was opened in his son’s name, bearing the description “Lunatic Account”. The Department was oblivious that the term was not just insensitive, but also no longer used in civilised and legal vocabulary.

Responding to his formal appeal to replace “lunatic” with the sensitive nomenclature of “Guardian Operated Account (Special Needs)”, a senior official in the Office of the Chief Postmaster General, Chennai, had on August 31, forwarded it to the Assistant Director, Department of Posts, Delhi, for consideration since it involved “policy decision.”

The official, in the letter, noted: “As per Section 12 of Government Savings Bank Act, 1873, persons with unsound mind or incapable of managing his affairs are defined as lunatics and as such, the same terminology is used in Post Office Saving Bank operations.”

He then sent a representation to the Union Minister for Telecommunications urging him to issue orders to pull the Department of Posts out of barbarian times and bring them to contemporaneity, and replace old world phrases.

He is yet to hear from the Minister.

In the meanwhile, outraged by this, an advocate and former government college principal M. Ravichandran on Friday lodged a complaint with the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, New Delhi. “It is unfortunate that officers in the highest echelons are incapable of managing legitimate grievances and cling on to an archaic law of 1873, unwilling to embark on course correction. I am afraid that this must be the case across India for all persons wishing to operate accounts of persons with intellectual disabilities,” he pointed out in his complaint.

He urged the Commissioner to ensure the dignity of persons with intellectual disabilities by making the Postal Department mend their ways and rules.

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