The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought the Centre’s response to a plea seeking official recognition for ‘Indian Sign Language’ at par with 22 other languages under the Constitution.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao issued notices to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Social Justice and Empowerment as well as the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre, and asked for their stand on the plea.
The plea has also asked for guidelines on introducing sign language into Schedule VIII of the Constitution.
“Pass a writ, order or direction in the nature of Mandamus requiring respondents to recognise sign language as a deemed official language and thereafter to accord the same rights of protection, preservation and representation as are conferred on other official languages found in schedule VIII of the Indian constitution,” the plea said. The next hearing of the case is on December 10.
The petitioner Nipun Malhotra, who is also a locomotor disabled person, has said in his plea that by according status of deemed official language to ‘Indian Sign Language’, it will ensure the protection of the rights of all hearing/speech impaired persons with disabilities and providing them with “all incidental benefits of recognised official languages”.
“Not providing recognition to a communicative device, such as the Indian Sign Language, would principally go on to indicate that the Union of India, is not willing to provide even a modicum of recognition to hearing/speech impaired Persons with Disabilities, which further indicates that there is no consideration for the issues which affect hearing/speech impaired persons with disabilities,” the plea has said.
According to the plea, filed through advocates Jai Dehadrai and Siddharth Arora, statistics available with the Census indicate there are nearly 2.68 crore disabled persons in India (around 2.21 per cent of the total population), of which nearly 26 per cent are persons with hearing/speech impairments who are “directly and substantially” affected due to lack of an officially recognised language.
The plea also said that the scheme of equality and non-discrimination as contained in Article 14 of the Constitution mandates equal treatment in recognition of languages and requires Indian Sign Language to be treated at par with other officially recognised languages.
“Despite the existence of such a strong mandate within the Constitution, there is hardly any official/ government recognition or acknowledgement towards recognition or protection of the Indian Sign Language, and hence, the net effect of the exercise is that users of the Indian Sign Language, are left with no rights of representation,” it said.
‘Indian Sign Language’ is a collection of visual cues, hand gestures and all other devices which are used as a communicative mechanism by persons with hearing/ speech impairments to interact with each other using a complex manner of grammar, it said.