Rajya Sabha has passed The Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 which will replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 when passed by Lok Sabha. The Bill was passed with amendments which seek to include disabilities caused by Parkinsonsâ€™s Disease and acid attack under the purview of the proposed law.
According to the 2011 Census, the number of disabled in India stands at 2.68 crore, or 2.21 per cent of the population. The Bill will bring a larger number of differently abled people under its purview as it recognises more disablities as compared to the 1995 Act. Apart from this, the Bill also complies with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The legislation has been pending in Rajya Sabha since 2014, and was piloted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on the recommendations of the Sudha Kaul Committee.
The Bill covers 19 conditions, instead of seven disabilities specified in the Act. While the 1995 Act recognised 7 disabilities â€” blindness, low vision, leprosy-cured, hearing impairment, locomotor disability, mental retardation and mental illness, the 2014 Bill was expanded to cover 19 conditionsâ€“ including cerebral palsy, haemophilia, multiple sclerosis, autism and thalassaemia among others. Apart from listing these disabilities, the Bill has also laid down provisions to allow the central government to notify any other condition as a disability.
The Bill also entitles individuals with at least 40 per cent of a disability to benefits like reservations in education and employment, preference in government schemes and others. While the 1995 law had 3 per cent reservation for the disabled in higher education institutions and government, the 2014 Bill raised the ceiling to 5 per cent, adding 1 per cent each for mental illnesses and multiple disabilities.
Several rights and entitlements â€” including disabled friendly access to all public buildings â€” are conferred on the disabled individuals. All establishments, private and government, have to ensure that persons with disabilities are provided with barrier-free access in buildings, transport systems and all kinds of public infrastructure, and are not discriminated against in matters of employment.
According to the Bill, the District courts may award two types of guardianship in the case of mentally ill person. While a limited guardian is to take joint decisions with the mentally ill person, the plenary guardian takes decisions on behalf of the mentally ill person, without consulting them.
While the 1995 Act has no penal provision, the 2014 Bill had made violation of any provision of the Act punishable with a jail term of up to 6 months, and/or a fine of Rs 10,000. Subsequent violations could attract a jail term of up to 2 years and/or a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh.
Meanwhile, the disability groups have welcomed the passage of the Bill with the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled that they had undertaken a countrywide campaign ever since the Standing Committee had submitted its recommendations in May 2015.
“”We welcome the fact that some of the major concerns we had raised with regard to certain provisions contained in the Bill have been addressed through official amendments. One of the major amendments concern bringing private entities within the purview of the definition of “”establishment.”” Another glaring inadequacy in the Bill was the definition of “”discrimination””, which has now been passed as an official amendments. The definition with regard to communication has been changed ti include sign language as well as video and visual displays,â€™â€™ the Platform said in a statement.”