The Supreme Court Tuesday asked all states to ‘scrupulously’ follow the 2016 law on the rights of persons with disabilities, saying it reflected “a sea change” in the perception of the government on the critical issue. The apex court, which directed all states and union territories (UTs) to file reports regarding compliance of provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, said the new statute operated in a broad spectrum to protect the rights of people with disabilities. The court said the states and UTs must realise that under this Act, their responsibilities have increased and the executing authorities must give effect to it with “quite promptitude”.
“The 2016 Act, as we find, is a sea change in the perception and exhibits a march forward look with regard to persons with disabilities and roles of state governments, local authorities, educational institutes and companies are given there,” a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said.
“The statute operates in a broad spectrum and the focus is to protect the rights and provide punishment for their violation. We think it apposite to direct all the states and UTs to file compliance reports keeping in view the provisions of the 2016 Act within 12 weeks hence,” the bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar,said.
The top court, which fixed the matter for next hearing on August 16, noted that the states and UTs should take immediate steps to comply with the requirements of the Act and file compliance reports.
“The steps taken in this regard (by the authorities) shall be concretely stated in the compliance report which is to be filed within the time stipulated,” it said.
The court was hearing a plea by the Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation seeking direction to the Centre and all states to file reports on the status of implementation of the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. During the hearing, advocate Manali Singhal, who appeared for the petitioner, told the bench that though most of the states have filed reports on compliance of the apex court’s earlier directions in the matter, there were some issues which needed to be addressed.
“All the states have filed compliance reports but there were some issues with some of these states. Many states were not complying with the Supreme Court’s order in some degree or other,” she said.
The counsel argued that there were “deficiencies” in the compliance of apex court’s earlier orders by some states and now, the new Act has also come. She said that as compared to the 1995 Act, various new provisions have been included in the recent legislation and it has expanded the horizon of the rights of such persons. The bench, in its order, noted various provisions of the 2016 Act, saying they highlighted salient features and “more rights have been conferred to disabled persons”.
“That apart, access to justice, free education, role of local authorities, national fund and state funds have also been created,” it said.
Referring to a provision of the 2016 Act, the bench said it also dealt with creation of special courts for speedy trial along with appointment of special public prosecutors in cases involving disabled persons. It also said that in the 1995 Act, Parliament had shown its concern and provided for reservation for disabled persons and the apex court, in several judgements, had directed the authorities to implement the Act.
The apex court had last year pulled up some states and UTs for not filing the status reports regarding implementation of its verdict and the legal scheme to grant of reservation to differently abled people. The petitioner had earlier filed a detailed chart with respect to the steps taken by the states and union territories and what more was required to be done by them to implement the verdict and the provisions of the Act to grant three per cent quota in jobs to differently abled persons.
The Act provides for a separate one per cent reservation for each of the three categories of persons with disabilities — persons suffering from blindness and low vision, those suffering from hearing disability and those suffering from locomotor disability or cerebral palsy.