Early this year,25-year-old Rajat Sachdeva applied for a learners driving licence. It was rejected outright simply because he is hard of hearing.
Sachdeva did not give up. He moved the Delhi High Court to take up the cause for others like him. Almost one in every ten people in India suffers from hearing impairment.
On Wednesday,a Division Bench led by Chief Justice A P Shah garnered an assurance from the Centre,represented by Additional Solicitor General A S Chandiok,to make appropriate recommendations for issuance of driving licence to the deaf within four weeks.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Sachdeva and the NGO National Association for the Deaf.
Sachdevas question to the court was simplicity itself: Why should the deaf not be allowed to drive if the law does not prevent them?
To prove his point,the young man,supported by the association,placed on record a FAQ web page of the Delhi Police website,featuring a question,can a deaf person drive? The police reply says: There is no reason why a deaf person cannot drive a private motorcar. However,the possibility of additional rear vision mirrors may need to be considered.
Sachdeva argued that he was hard put to understand the authorities turning a deaf ear on him when even the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 had no specific provision suggesting that deaf people are not permitted to obtain a driving licence in India .
The Section 8 of the Act merely provides a general caution that licence should not be given to a person with a disability which is likely to cause the driving by him to be source of danger to the public.
Why is the licensing authority insisting on a medical certificate even though there is no trace of such a demand in the Motor Vehicles law,he questioned.
Quoting the Secretary of the International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences,Yutaka Osugia,the petition said: Being deaf does not result in incapability to drive… approximately 95 per cent of information required for driving is obtained visually. Sachdeva asked what the fuss was all about when those who can hear perfectly often mask out noise while driving by listening to the radio,CDs and cellular phones. This renders them in the same position as a deaf person,the petition reasoned.
A deaf person who is a foreigner with an international drivers licence,is able to drive in India,why should an Indian deaf national be denied this right? he argued.
Jyoti Singh,counsel for the Transport Ministry,said an hearing impaired person with an ability to hear up to 60 decibels with hearing aids were allowed to drive private vehicles and those with hearing level up to 40 decibels with hearing aid are permitted to operate commercial vehicles.
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