The Supreme Court has while hearing a Writ Petition passed strict directions for implementation of reservation for differently abled students for admission to Higher Education Institutes in the Country.
The Supreme Court was hearing a Petition involving multiple issues relating to differently abled students, viz., non-implementation of reservation of seats in educational institutions, to provide proper access to orthopaedic disabled persons so that they are able to freely move in the educational institution and access the facilities and third was the issue pertaining to pedagogy i.e. making adequate provisions and facilities of teaching for disabled persons, depending upon the nature of their disability, to enable them to undertake their studies effectively.
We may add that a basic underline assumption, which is well recognised, is that everyone can learn; there is no such person as one who is ineducable; and that, accordingly, all disabled persons (from whatever disability they are suffering) have right to get not only minimum education but higher education as well. Not making adequate provisions to facilitate proper education to such persons, therefore, would amount to discrimination.
Interpreting under Section 32 of the Disabilities Act, 2016 to be mandatory, the Supreme Court has directed that all Government institutions of higher education and other higher education institutions receiving aid from the Government shall reserve not less than five per cent seats for persons with benchmark disabilities while making admission of students in educational courses of higher education each year. The Institutions have also been directed to submit list of the number of disabled persons admitted in each course every year to the Chief Commissioner and/or the State Commissioner (as the case may be), who shall verify as to whether these educational institutions have fulfilled the aforesaid obligation. The Apex Court has also clarified that appropriate consequential action shall be initiated against defaulting institutions.
The Court also felt that to ensure the level playing field, it is not only essential to give necessary education to the persons suffering from the disability, it is also imperative to see that such education is imparted to them in a fruitful manner, which can be achieved only if there is proper accessibility to the buildings where the educational institution is housed as well as to other facilities in the said building, namely, class rooms, library, bathrooms etc.
A lawyer can be just as effective in a wheelchair, as long as she has access to the courtroom and the legal library, as well as to whatever other places and material or equipment that are necessary for her to do her job well. A person who can’t hear can be a master carpenter or the head of a chemistry lab, if he can communicate with clients and assistants. A person with mental illness can nonetheless be a brilliant scholar or theorist.
The Supreme Court noted that UGC has specifically made provisions concerning ‘schemes for persons with disabilities’, in respect of Higher Education for Persons with Special Needs (HEPSN).
The Petitioner had also made lot of suggestions to improve the infrastructure, for the students. The SC considered those suggestions and ruled that insofar as suggestions given by the petitioner in the form of “Guidelines for Accessibility for Students with Disabilities in Universities/Colleges” are concerned, the UGC shall consider the feasibility thereof by constituting a Committee in this behalf. In this Committee, the UGC would be free to include persons from amongst Central Advisory Board, State Advisory Boards, Chief Commissioner of State Commissioners appointed under the Disabilities Act. This Committee shall undertake a detailed study for making provisions in respect of accessibility as well as pedagogy and would also suggest the modalities for implementing those suggestions, their funding and monitoring, etc. The Committee shall also lay down the time limits within which such suggestions could be implemented. The Expert Committee may also consider feasibility of constituting an in-house body in each educational institution (of teachers, staff, students and parents) for taking care of day to day needs of differently abled persons as well as for implementation of the Schemes that would be devised by the Expert Committee.
The Supreme Court has fixed deadline of June 30, 2018 for effecting better and accessible provisions in respect of accessibility as well as pedagogy for differently abled students.
This judgement gives an insight into the affairs of our country. Firstly, a law is made, then an authority is created to enforce the law, as has happened in numerous case, a Public Interest Litigation or a Writ Petition is filed complaining of non-compliance of the law and seeking judicial directions to enforce the law. Then the Supreme Court passes directions for enforcement of law.
This is really not done. Why can’t we be self-disciplined and self-regulated in matters of social sensitivities and equal opportunity, instead Courts trying to tell us our obligations.
Read the Judgement: