SC tells institutions of higher education that lack of facilities for disabled persons amounts to discrimination

New Delhi: People with disability have a right to get higher education and not making adequate provisions to facilitate their proper education would amount to "discrimination", the Supreme Court said on Friday.

It directed the government institutions of higher education and other such institutions, which were receiving aid from the government, to comply with the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

The Act provides for reservation of not less than five percent seats for persons with benchmark disabilities.

A bench of justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said that appropriate consequential action under the provisions of the act would be initiated against the defaulting educational institutions.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

It asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to constitute a committee to consider the feasibility of having guidelines for accessibility of students with disabilities in universities and colleges.

It said the committee would undertake a detailed study to make provisions in respect of accessibility and facilities of teaching for disabled persons and would also suggest the modalities for implementing those suggestions, their funding and monitoring.

"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 bench said, adding that the exercise be completed by 30 June next year.

It said that an action taken report in this regard should be placed before it in July 2018.

The court's verdict came on a plea which had raised three key issues, including the non-implementation of reservation of seats in educational institutions as provided in the act and provision for proper access to orthopaedically disabled persons so allow them to freely move in educational institutions.

The bench noted that a provision under the 2016 Act provided that persons with benchmark disabilities shall be given an upper age relaxation of five years for admission in institutions of higher education.

"Accordingly, we direct that all those institutions which are covered by the obligations provided under Section 32 of the Disabilities Act, 2016 shall comply with the provisions of Section 32 while making admission of students in educational courses of higher education each year," it said.

The court said such educational institutions shall submit a list of the number of disabled persons admitted in each course every year to the chief commissioner or state commissioner.

It said it raised the critical issue of creating a level playing field where all the citizens have equality of fair opportunities to enable them to realise their full potential and experience well-being.

"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," it said.

"Not making adequate provisions to facilitate proper education to such persons, therefore, would amount to discrimination," it said.

The bench said that such requirement was to ensure that a student with a disability, after proper education, would be able to lead an independent, economically self-sufficient and fully participatory life.

Regarding the law colleges, the court said intimation about the number of admissions given to disabled students be sent to the Bar Council of India (BCI).

"Other educational institutions will notify the compliance, each year, to the UGC. It will be within the discretion of the BCI and/or UGC to carry out inspections of such educational institutions to verify as to whether the provisions are complied with or not," it said.

Updated Date: Dec 15, 2017 20:44 PM

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