Former Officiating Principal at ILS Law College, Pune Prof Sanjay Jain has joined National Law School of India University (NLSIU) Bangalore as the first teacher with disability at the University..Prof Jain graduated from Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Law College of Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University (RTMNU) in 1995 and finished his LL.M. in 1996. He went on to pursue his PhD from the same college from 1997-2010 under the guidance of his mentor, Prof Shirish Deshpande, who was also visually challenged.Having over 25 years of teaching experience, Prof Jain began his career at Department of Law, Nagpur, after which he went on to teach at Bhartiya Vidyapeeth New Law College, Pune.He then taught at ILS for 14 years and was appointed as Officiating Principal at the college in 2020, the first blind teacher to occupy this seat. .Speaking to Bar & Bench on his journey from ILS to NLSIU, Prof Jain said, "It was always one among my professional goals to have been in NLSIU. Of course, that does not mean that I have prejudice against conventional law colleges. Law schools are generally exclusionary of teachers with disability - there are very few. In my opinion, barring Dr. Shirish Deshpande and one or two other disabled teachers, very few people have been able to make it to law schools. NLSIU was always my goal. In fact, I wanted to study law at NLSIU, but owing to awareness deficit, I got to know of the institution in my second year, by which time it was not possible to make a shift. I then tried to pursue my LL.M. from NLSIU, but the then Director told me that the physical terrain of the campus may not be suitable for persons with disabilities. Now, on being appointed as a Professor at the institute, I think I have come full circle." .During his time at ILS, Prof Jain pioneered various reforms through short courses and competitions. On his plans to continue those initiatives during his stint at NLSIU, he said,"I want to continue my ILS legacy at NLSIU as well, on a more expansive canvas, and I look forward to the potential international exposure I get while on campus, which will help scale the initiatives I can bring on board. To give an example, I have been pondering on introducing a privileges audit. If I can ask my able-bodied students to make an audit of the privileges they enjoy by default, over their other marginalized friends like the LGBTQIA+ community or the disabled, it would be a very good exercise that would sensitize people on the lack of a level-playing field.".On the efforts to make the NLSIU campus disability-friendly, Prof Jain said,"It would be too ambitious for me to make a detailed statement on this, since I have just recently joined. But from whatever I have heard, we are on the right track. So far as augmentation is concerned, I would definitely play a role in increasing participation in the accessibility dialogue given the opportunity.".NLSIU Bangalore to set precedent in effort to digitize its library .On the issues he intends to address through academic endeavours, Prof Jain revealed,"The issue of basic structure, which is considered to be an integral part of the Constitutional identity, does not recognize the rights of persons with disabilities. If the identity of the Indian Constitution itself is exclusive and ableist, then how basic is the basic structure from the perspective of persons with disabilities? So I want to visit all constitutional doctrines from the perspective of pluralism by launching an ableist critique of the public law - that is my dream. When you look at law, the approach is generally very monolithic. One takes into account the mainstream, forgetting the continuum where everybody is both disabled and non-disabled simultaneously. So can we really shape or reshape jurisprudence?".On terming himself 'blind' and on the common perception of people viewing persons with disabilities as less capable, Prof. Jain said, "People view disability or visual impairment as people whose ability to visualize is challenged. The terms like 'special', 'challenged', 'Divyangjan' etc, are esoteric jargon which augments the dichotomy between disabled and non-disabled, which is problematic. Emphasizing on my blindness is a matter of choice and it is perfectly alright to do so. It is just showing awareness about my identity as a person to the public at large.""Instead of using esoteric terminologies, calling oneself blind should be accepted," Prof. Jain added..Shining light on the lack of sensitization generally among judges, Dr. Jain cited the 2018 Bombay High Court decision in Naman Verma vs The Director, IIT Mumbai, where the question before the Court was whether a person with learning disability can be fit within the scope of having mental retardation. In absence of its mention or cognizance in the Persons with Disability Act, 1995 (the predecessor of RPwD Act, 2016), the judges tried to answer this question in the affirmative."This is an attempt at trying to fit round pegs in square holes. Learning disability being a disability in itself cannot be forcefully fit into another disability as a matter of showing sympathy. Every High Court within the power granted to it under Article 226 could recognize this as a separate disability, but trying to fit this under mental retardation is bizarre. What is even interesting is the Supreme Court confirmed the High Court's decision underlying that the High Court took the best efforts to grant favour to the petitioner."Delving on this judgement, Prof Jain said, "In my opinion, disability is not static and cannot be fit into rigid categories, and if rights of persons with disabilities must be recognized, experts should be appointed as amicus curiae to assist the courts in developing disability rights jurisprudence. Instead of taking cognizance of the United Nation Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability, when courts try to engage in this so-called exercise in self-aggrandizement, then the results will be starkly astonishing. The lackluster approach of the judiciary needs to be positively critiqued - exclusion may be deliberate or not deliberate, but inclusion must always be deliberate, as was rightly pointed out by Hon'ble Justice DY Chandrachud. This aspect is missed by the Supreme Court in this case. This is what I want to challenge during my time at NLSIU. I want to challenge ableism in judicial processes and in academics by fostering diversity.".Most recently according to a law clerk present in an open court proceeding, Hon'ble Justice Ravindra Bhat admonished the Government in an off-the-cuff remark, when it was trying to be casual about the disabled community by highlighting Dr. Jain's example as being a disabled teacher and the Principal of ILS."This is the effect of a sensitized judge, and sensitivity does not come automatically, there has to be exposure and training.".Prof. Jain concluded the interaction with a quote by Ernesto Lozado Uzuriaga Steele, "...the wisdom of intimacy teaches that we must not need the other person to be like, to speak like, to think like, to feel like, and to dream like ourselves. The path of intimacy embraces and nurtures the difference between ourself and the other. It respects and nourishes this uniqueness and difference. The path of intimacy creates a safe space in which the other is encouraged and enabled to find their own path, be their own self, think their own thoughts, speak with their own voice, acknowledge their own feelings, and dream their own dream. Intimacy celebrates the difference between the self and the other. The richness of your difference will always surprise, delight, challenge and teach you. These differences will never be exhausted in the brevity of life. Every day will be one of great discovery and wonder.".Prof Jain's work was cited in a judgment passed on February 11, 2021 by the Supreme Court's Justice DY Chandrachud in the case of Vikash Kumar v Union of India, which held that an individual suffering from dysgraphia or writer’s cramp is entitled to a scribe in the Civil Services Examination..The author has been a student of Professor Dr. Sanjay Jain since over 7 years and has assisted him on prestigious projects on disability and accessibility inclusion ever since.