- Apprentice Lawyer
The Patna High Court recently asked the Bihar State Government to respond on a petition seeking to secure educational facilities for the visually challenged in the State. (Raj Kumar Ranjan v. The State of Bihar and Ors.)
The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar took note of data submitted by an amicus curiae that there appeared to be eight schools in the State for the physically challenged, out of which only three catered to those with visual disabilities.
The Judges described the State's affidavit as "deficient" and sought additional information from the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.
The Court went on to pose the following questions to the Commissioner and the Bihar Chief Secretary:
Whether the Commissioner had discharged his functions in terms of Section 80 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016? None can answer except for he himself, the Court added
What is the intake capacity of the three schools for visually challenged students? Whether they fully catered to the needs of all visually challenged children in Bihar?
If these were not sufficient, whether there were measures taken by the State to impart education to visually-challenged children in the State?
Whether the State had taken specific measures to promote and
facilitate inclusive education in terms of Section 17 of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016?
The Court quoted extensively from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as Article 15 and Articles 39(f), 45, 47 of the Indian Constitution to underscore that the rights of persons with disabilities, specifically children who were physically-challenged, had to be promoted by the State.
In this respect, the Bench also referenced the objects and reasons for the enactment of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, which was specifically legislated to implement the UN's Convention in the Indian legal system. The legislation enjoined governments to take measures so that persons with disabilities could enjoy their rights.
The Court proceeded to read these provisions along with those of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, to emphasize that the State was required to ensure the education of all visually-challenged children below the age of 14 in the State.
When the amicus curiae submitted that only eight schools were earmarked for the physically-challenged, the Court sought more information.
The Court's attention was also drawn to the 2011 Census report which recorded 1.72 lakh children as being between the age of 5-19 years. There were no details of how many of these children were visually challenged or below 14 years, it was noted.
The amicus informed the Court that the State would be best-placed to respond to the questions posed by the Court since the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 required local governments to collect information on visually challenged children in their precincts.
The Court, therefore, directed the Chief Secretary and the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities to table personal affidavits before the Court.
With this direction, the matter was adjourned to December 22.
Advocate Brisketu Sharan Pandey appeared for the petitioner. AAG Ashutosh Ranjan Pandey assisted by Advocate Priya Darshi Matri Sharan represented the State of Bihar. Advocate Abhishek served as amicus curiae.
Read the order: