Sunday, January 16, 2011

In India, Bombay high court works to implement disability laws

From The Times of India:

MUMBAI, India -- At a unique hearing on Jan. 15, the Bombay high court got down to tackling the issue of implementation of the disability laws in letter and in spirit.

In a boost for the visually impaired, a bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice S J Vazifdar set up a working group of experts to study and identify various advanced-technology software that could be incorporated into the governmental scheme of things and asked the state to see to it that even a person with complete vision loss be considered for posts in government departments.

The HC had scheduled the special and novel hearing at the court's conference room in the wake of several public interest litigations (PIL) raising concerns at the lack of proper implementation of the rights of the disabled, especially when it came to filling up vacancies in government posts. Chief Justice Shah organized the hearing in the form of a round table unlike regular court hearings. and did away with various technicalities. Around 40 people, including representatives of NGOs, disability experts from Delhi, Ahmedabad and secretaries of finance, social justice were present along with advocate general Ravi Kadam and advocate Kanchan Pamnani, who is partially sighted and advocate Uday Warunjikar.

Chief Justice Shah said the aim was to have a general consensus on how to have effective enforcement of the law, so that everyone need not knock at the court's doors all the time.

Pamnani, in a presentation on access devices, pointed out how there were several scientific aids to help a special employee. There are various inventions, including reading software and a talking calculator at hand, which the government could put to use.Two experts from Gujarat also pointed out how even files can now be "read" by those with vision loss.

Chief Justice Shah also spoke about how in the US and Europe at birth babies are tested to rule out likely disability issues. Kadam said that such tests were already part of draft action plan for the state. Calling for greater sensitisation, the judges added that the attitude towards subordinate staff with special needs must change in the government.

The court said that the Central government be made a party and its guidelines on identification of posts meant for the disabled could be adopted by the state, as identification of posts was often seen as a problem. The medical council of India, would also be roped in for proper certification of any disability.

The matter was posted for further hearing to March 19.