Social Justice and Welfare
Highlights of the Bill
- The Bill replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. Instead of seven disabilities specified in the Act, the Bill covers 19 conditions.
- Persons with at least 40% of a disability are entitled to certain benefits such as reservations in education and employment, preference in government schemes, etc.
- The Bill confers several rights and entitlements to disabled persons. These include disabled friendly access to all public buildings, hospitals, modes of transport, polling stations, etc.
- In case of mentally ill persons, district courts may award two types of guardianship. A limited guardian takes decisions jointly with the mentally ill person. A plenary guardian takes decisions on behalf of the mentally ill person, without consulting him.
- Violation of any provision of the Act is punishable with imprisonment up to six months, and/or fine of Rs 10,000. Subsequent violations carry a higher penalty.
Key Issues and Analysis
- The Bill is being brought in to fulfill obligations under an international treaty. The question is whether it is appropriate for Parliament to impose legal and financial obligations on states and municipalities with regard to disability, which is a State List subject.
- The Financial Memorandum does not provide any estimate of the financial resources required to meet obligations under the Bill.
- The Bill states that violation of any provision in the Act will attract imprisonment and/or fine. Given the widespread obligations (such as making all polling booths accessible to the disabled), many acts of omission or commission could be interpreted as criminal offences.
- In “extraordinary situations” district courts may appoint plenary guardians for mentally ill persons. The Bill does not lay down principles for such determination, in a consistent manner, across various courts. The Bill overrides the Mental Health Act, 1987 but the safeguards against misuse of powers by guardians are lower.
- The Bill is inconsistent with other laws in some cases. These include conditions for termination of pregnancy and the minimum penalty for outraging the modesty of a woman.