The Supreme Court on Friday sought the response of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking the formation of district-level committees to enforce the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. (Seema Girija Lal and anr vs Union of India and ors)
A Bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha noted,
"The plea raises important role of district level committees to comply with law. Issue notice to Centre and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Counter to be filed within a month dealing with specific issues raised regarding lack of proper implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act. Affidavit shall give details on State-wise compliance. Union to also hold a meeting of all concerned ministries of State governments and State advisory boards with a view to eliciting present status of compliance."
The PIL states that India’s basic infrastructure to meet the needs of its nearly 3 crore persons with disabilities is 'visibly absent', and that the top court should accordingly take judicial notice of the same.
The plea seeks that States (that have not done so already) frame and notify relevant Rules as mandated under Sections 72 and 101(2) of the 2016 Act.
Specifically, the petitioners seek the formation of district-level committees (DLCs) to enforce the various provisions of the Act, which is argued as being 'indispensable' for effective implementation.
The plea underscores that giving differential treatment to those differently-situated is an aspect of the right to equality, and that the Act codifies the rights of the specially-abled to live with dignity.
"Persons with disabilities necessarily need further support to ensure they can effectively enjoy their fundamental rights. The grievance of the Petitioners is that notwithstanding the dictums of this Court and also the statutory enactments, even baseline infrastructure for persons with disabilities has not been put into place. The effect is a de facto deprivation of their rights."
Pertinently, the plea points out that the State of Andhra Pradesh has not even formulated draft rules in this regard, while West Bengal has not notified the same.
"...out of the 8 Union Territories in India, Union Territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry do not seem to have framed any rules. Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli Daman & Diu, and Ladakh have yet to formalise the draft rules framed by them and notify it."
Further, out of 36 states and union territories (combined), 14 of them have not constituted any DLC.
"...Gujarat, Kerala, Union Territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, and Chandigarh in their replies have confirmed that DLCs have not been constituted so far in all the districts. In fact, except Meghalaya, almost all States are in default."
Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan appeared for the respondents, and was asked to assist the Court in the matter.
The plea was drawn by Advocate Akshay Sahay and filed though Advocate A Karthik, who appeared for the petitioners along with Advocate K Parameshwar.