Rights of the people with Disability- Important laws for the differently-abled
India is one of the countries with a high prevalence rate of persons living with disabilities. The disabled are everywhere from the streets of Delhi to the streets Mumbai. In extreme cases, some of them are helpless. The Indian government has viewed this ugly trend with utmost dismay swung into action by enacting laws to protect the rights of persons living with disabilities.
The disabled sometimes do not even know their rights as enshrined in the Indian constitution. It is in the light of above that this article will take a look at the rights of disabled persons in India.
Disabled persons can leverage this knowledge to sue any person or government entities if they are discriminated upon or when their rights are breached.
What is Disability or being Differently-abled?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, disability can be described as an impairment which may be Intellectual, limitations, cognitive, development, sensory, activity or the combination of all these. Disability affects a person’s activities and can occur at birth. Sometimes, it can occur in adulthood.
Disability is one subject that has been contested in several communities. Persons living with disabilities also need to be taken care of just like normal human beings.
The Indian constitution through the Persons With Disability Act, 1995 defines disability under section 2(i) as persons living with low vision, blindness, locomotor disability, leprosy cured, mental illness, hearing impairment, and mental retardation, among others.
Before we delve into the various rights that persons living with disabilities have, it is important we discuss the fundamental rights that persons living with disabilities have under the constitution.
THE CONSTITUTION AND THE DISABLED
The Indian constitution no doubt covers the entire Indian citizens whether in good health or disabled (mentally or physically). The following are the fundamental rights targeted towards persons living with disabilities as enshrined in the Indian constitution:
- The constitution guarantees Indian citizens, including persons living with disabilities with the right of expression, faith, belief, justice, worship, equal opportunity and status, as well as liberty of thought.
- The Indian constitution under Article 15(1) frowns at the discrimination of citizens (including persons living with disabilities) on the basis of place of birth, sex, race, caste, and religion.
- Article 15(2) in the same vein frowns at the practice of subjecting the disabled to any form of restrictions or liability when accessing public restaurants, shops, places of public entertainment, hotels of when using tanks, Wells, and roads.
- The constitution guarantees persons living with disabilities the right to employment in any office without discrimination
- Article 17 clearly states that no Indian (including the disabled) shall be treated as untouchable.
- Article 21 guarantees the right to liberty and life of the disabled
- Article 23 prohibits the practice of trafficking persons living with disabilities or forceful employment.
- Article 24 clearly states that no industry or factory should employ persons living with disabilities under the age of 14 years. The Act also prohibits the employment of disabled children in a hazardous situation.
- Article 25 clearly gives the disabled the right to religion. Persons living with disabilities can choose where to worship.
- The constitution also ensures that persons living with disabilities are not compelled to pay taxes in order to maintain any religious group.
- The Indian constitution guarantees the right to choose a language, culture or script
- Persons living with disabilities have the right to approach the Supreme Court to challenge a breach of his/her right under Article 32.
- Persons living with disabilities have the right to vote and be voted for upon attainment of 18 years.
Apart from the above 13 fundamental rights that are recognized by the Indian constitution, the following are some other basic rights the disabled enjoy:
- DISABILITY CERTIFICATE
The disability certificate is one of the most important documents to possess as a person living with disabilities. The document ensures that the disabled enjoy some concessions or benefits. The certificate is issued by the State Medical Boards to persons living with at least 40 percent of disabilities. The disabled can visit any hospital for a medical checkup and the percentage of disabilities, after which the disability certificate will be issued. The validity of the certificate is five years for temporary disability and lifetime for permanent disability.
- Train Concession
Persons living with disabilities are entitled to train concession whenever they buy train tickets whether online or across the counter. However, the disabled must present a photo ID for verification. Other documents to present are available on the website of the Indian Railways. Persons living disability should visit the nearest Railway Station to avail this benefit. After verification, he/she will be issued with an ID card. This right is also applicable to avail bus in some states, provided the disabled present with the disability certificate to the bus conductor.
- Disability Pension
The constitution guarantees that disabled persons should enjoy disability pension, provided that he/she is above 18, live below the poverty line, and suffers a disability of more than 80%. This right comes under the Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme. A lot of Non-governmental Organization has pursued this course for the disabled with a view that they get their disability pension.
- Legal Guardianship Certificate
A Legal Guardianship Certificate is required in a situation where the disabled person cannot take a legal decision, especially when suffering from mental retardation or cerebral palsy. The certificate is issued to a guardian who would look after the disabled person. The guardian can take a legal decision on behalf of the disabled person even after 18 years.
- Income Tax Concession
Persons living with disabilities also have the right to enjoy income tax concession. This right is guaranteed under the Income Tax Act, 1961 sections 80DD & 80U.
The Indian government through the constitution ensures that 3% of the vacant positions in government jobs are reserved for the disabled.
- The Mental Health Act, 1987
The Mental Health Act, 1987 guarantees the following rights to persons living with disabilities:
- Persons living with mental disabilities should be admitted and treated in a government-owned hospital, convalescent home, and psychiatric hospital.
- The right to admit and treat mentally retarded prisoners or minors in a government-owned nursing home or psychiatric hospital.
- Minors below 16 years, alcohol addict, drug addict, and any person convicted of committing offence all have the right to be admitted and treated in a government-owned psychiatric hospital.
- Mentally retarded persons are protected by the constitution with the right to receive directed, regulated, and coordinated medical services from government-owned hospitals. The Act established Regulatory agencies both at the state and central level to license these hospitals
- The right to receive treatment and care at the above-mentioned hospitals both as a patient and as an out-patient.
- Mentally disabled persons can seek voluntary medical admission in above-mentioned hospitals. Their guardian can also seek admission on their behalf if they are minors. A suit can be filed in a magistrate court to enforce this order
- Security agencies should protect a wandering mentally disabled person by taking him/her to a safe custody and then inform the family members or approach a local magistrate with the disabled for the magistrate to pronounce a reception court order.
- The right for mentally disabled persons to leave the hospital after recovery.
- The right to protect and manage the properties of mentally disabled persons. If they cannot manage it themselves, the court would appoint a guardian to manage the properties.
- The medical bill of mentally disabled persons shall be borne by the government, except in cases where the relatives agree to pay the medical bill.
- Mentally disabled persons that are being treated have the right not to be subjected to any cruelty or indignity.
- Mentally disabled persons have the right not to be used for research purposes without their consent.
- Mentally disabled persons have the right to receive their pension, payment or gratuity from the government. A guardian certified by the magistrate can receive the payment on behalf of the disabled persons.
- This Act provides the right to receive free legal representation in the event that he/she cannot engage a lawyer.
The Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992
The Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992 ensures that persons living with disabilities are treated fairly by rehabilitation personnel. The following are some of the standards that must be maintained by rehabilitation officers:
- Persons living with disabilities should be served by professionally trained rehabilitation officers. The name of professionals must be on the register maintained by the Council.
- The rehabilitation personnel must be qualified and must possess all the required qualifications to be appointed
- The rehabilitation personnel must work with the highest level of professionalism, else the officer may be sanctioned and his/her name removed from the Council’s register.
- The government should properly regulate the profession of rehabilitation officers.
The rights of the disabled are an important subject because so many disabled persons do not know their rights. The Rights of Persons With Disability Bill, 2014 which is currently before the Rajya Sabha is an amendment from the existing Persons With Disabilities Act, 1995. The intention of the government is to strengthen the existing legislation. One noticeable change in the new bill is that the previously recognized 7 categories of disabled persons have been increased to 19. In addition, there are plans by the Central government to introduce an identification card to be used by persons living with disabilities for identity across the country. Persons living with disabilities can sue anybody or government agencies if their rights are breached.