Delhi-based disability rights activist Dr Satendra Singh may have filed a case against BJP minister Babul Supriyo for his insensitive outburst at an event for the disabled but he isn’t optimistic about justice – even though an act passed by Parliament recently made insulting the disabled a criminal offence with at least six-month jail term.
Supriyo, at an event for distributing wheelchairs and other aids in West Bengal’s Asansol previous Tuesday, September 18, apparently lost his cool and told a disabled person: “What happened to you? Any problem? I can break one of your legs and can give you a crutch.” A video clip of the incident went viral.
Section 92 (A) of The Rights of Persons with the Disabilities Act (RPwD), 2016, which replaced the toothless Persons with Disability Act, 1995, states that “whoever intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a person with disability in any place within public view; shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine”.
What happened to you? Any problem? I can break one of your legs: Union Minister Babul Supriyo to a man during a program for differently abled people at Nazrul Manch in Asansol #WestBengal pic.twitter.com/cFxpF7K6Pn
— ANI (@ANI) September 18, 2018
Dr Satendra, who teaches at University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, said Supriyo has clearly violated Section 92 (A) of the act and filed a case against the minister in the Court of Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities on Friday, September 21.
However, there is a reason why Dr Satendra believes the case against Supriyo will remain stuck. A day after the RPwD Act 2016 was passed on April 20, 2017, the activist had filed a case against Uttar Pradesh Minister Satyadev Pachauri for berating a disabled employee in Lucknow.
Pachauri, during a surprise visit to his office on April 19, 2017, had looked a contractual employee up and down and told the officer present there: “Lulay langdon ko samvida par rakh liya hai, yeh kya kaam karega” (You have kept those suffering from disability of the limbs on contract, what work will he do). Those present in the room had laughed at the minister’s remark.
Till date, the case, which is the first under the RPwd Act 2106, Dr Satendra said, hasn’t moved at all, with not even a single hearing being held.
The activist says: “Until and unless the act is implemented in letter and spirit, nothing will change, people will think it’s normal to abuse people.”
Dr Satendra insists that Supriyo should be punished. “This is in keeping with the law. It is about time that at least one case of abuse is made an example and the accused is punished, it will serve as a deterrent to others.”
Dr Satendra is not alone in demanding punishment for the union minister.
Ketan Kothari, who works for Mumbai-based Sightssavers, says: “It is an irony that it is this government that has passed the path-breaking disability legislation, and it is the same government that is overlooking its minister’s faux pas.”
Kothari adds: “A case should be made and the minister should be punished. In our country, politicians across party lines are insensitive and think they are above the law.“
Arman Ali, Executive Director Designate at National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), says there is no awareness about the new disability act and its provisions. “The disabled are the biggest minority in the country. There is a stringent SC/ST Act in our country and people are brought to book if they insult any Dalit. At the same time, there is a new disability act in place, and it has penal provisions but they are not implemented. Incidents like Supriyo’s will continue to happen since people think they can get away with it.”
Kolkata-based disability activist Jeeja Ghosh, whom the Election Commission is set to make its brand ambassador, said “they are holding discussions on the course of action against Supriyo. Nothing is final as yet”.
A police complaint has also reportedly been filed against the minister at an Asansol police station.