Explained: Constitutional Provisions and Legislations With Regards to a Person with Disabilities

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The world celebrates December 3 as International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). This day is also called World Disability Day.

Introduction

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed IDPD in 1992. The aim was to promote their well-being & rights in all spheres of society & development. It aims to increase awareness about disabled persons in every aspect of political, social, economic & cultural life. UN has worked for several decades in the field of disability. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted in 2006. It aimed to advance the rights & well-being of disabled persons in the implementation of the 2030 agenda. The organization, government & individuals work together for this. They create awareness about the challenges which PWD (persons with disability) face daily. The agenda is to highlight how disabled people can play an active role in any society. The day also aims to eradicate all types of discrimination, which PWDs experience. They draw attention to the benefits of an accessible & inclusive society for all. UN agencies, academic institutions, civil society organizations, collaborate with organizations for PWD. They arrange events & activities. Even WHO joins partners for celebrating “a day for all”.

IDPD 2020: Theme

This time UN’S theme was “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible & sustainable post-Covid-19 World”. During the Covid-19 situation, people with disabilities were the most affected ones. PWDs have been the most vulnerable population. They have faced challenges due to health, social & environmental barriers. Discriminatory attitudes & inaccessible infrastructure has also contributed to their challenges. The theme focuses on the importance of strengthening collective efforts. It provides access to essential services. This includes immediate health & social protection, education, accessible information. This also includes digital infrastructure, employment & many socio-cultural opportunities.

The Covid-19 outbreak has provided a unique opportunity to make all these possible. The theme provides for building a health system. It should be more inclusive & responsive to the needs & human rights of PWDs. WHO has supported the theme. They have identified the significance of creating an inclusive culture. Responding to the urgent needs of PWDs during the pandemic is also necessary. As per UNESCO, no person with a disability should be left behind in times of crisis.

Constitutional Framework for PWDs

According to the 2011 census, 2.68 crore persons in India are specially-abled. This makes up around 2.21% of India’s total population. Out of 2.68, 1.50 crore are males, while the rest are females. Our Constitution has adopted an inclusive policy for ensuring the welfare & protection of PWDs rights. Some important legislation for preventing all forms of discrimination against PWDs are present. Duties imposed on the State to improve its policies & protect them. Several issues are identifying the problems of discrimination & infringement of constitutional rights.

Disability means a lack of physical, mental, or physical aspect in a person. It does not mean the disqualification of the person from having access to different aspects of life. For the first time, PM Narendra Modi suggested the use of the term ‘divyang’ (divine body). This term is now used instead of ‘Viklang’ (disabilities) for PWDs. This suggestion came on World Disability Day in the year 2015. The COI provides for several articles assuring that disabled persons are free from exploitation. It also ensures that the State protects its rights.

Constitutional Beneficial Rights of Disabled Persons

Article 14 provides for the Right to Equality for every citizen. It also includes disabled persons. The preamble also seeks to ensure that disabled persons are not left out. The fundamental rights enshrined in Part III of the Constitution are given to all citizens, including PWDs. However, there has been no mention of disabled persons either in the constitution or the preamble. It is not that the framers of our constitution weren’t aware of these classes of people. So, there must be a provision made for physically disabled & mentally disabled people.

Article 15 provides for the prohibition of discrimination against any citizen. It applies to PWDs as well. Article 21 ensures the right to life & liberty, extends to disabled persons as well. Disabled people are also protected under article 24 against trafficking. Under article 25, citizens have the freedom of conscience. They have the right to practice and profess their religion. Disabled persons have this freedom, just like non-disabled ones. Article 32(1) conferred in Part II of the COI, guarantees every citizen to move to the Supreme Court. It does not discriminate against disabled persons. Every disabled person can move to the High Court for enforcement of fundamental rights. Article 226 provides for this right.

No disabled person is deprived of owning a property except by the authority of law. Every disabled person is eligible to enrol his/her name in the general electoral roll after the attainment of 18 years of age. Under article 243G in the 11th Schedule and article 243W in the 12th Schedule, the word handicapped & mentally retarded has been used. Article 243G deals with social welfare, including the disabled & mentally disabled person. Article 243W safeguards the interests of weaker sections of society. It also includes handicapped and mentally retarded.

Other Legislations

Various laws enacted by the parliament are equally applicable to specially-abled persons. There are certain duties & rights on marriage under Family Laws. Both disabled & non-disabled persons have the same duties & rights. Under the Guardian and Wards Act, 1890, a disabled person cannot act as a guardian of a minor. Under several legislation, the same position was taken. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 also provides for an important provision. Under the Act, a physically disabled person cannot be disqualified from inheriting the ancestral property. Special provisions for disabled persons have been specified, especially for PWD under  Income Tax Law. Various laws are especially enacted to protect the rights & interests of disabled persons. Legislations like Indian Lunacy Act 1912, The Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, Mental Health Act, 1987 are to name a few.

Conclusion

Disability is an unfortunate part of human life. It affects not only the natural way of living but also despairs component strength & power. The state must enforce and oblige the constitutional norms. They must protect rights & provide opportunities equally to disabled persons. The COI ensures equality, dignity, justice to every individual including a disabled person. The government also needs to launch more schemes for disabled persons. They need to generate more employment opportunities for them. Special care & attention are to be given to divyang women. The State should protect them against exploitation & abuse in society. This is very important, especially at the time of the pandemic. Steps should be taken to create awareness of PWDS. An environment which is more welcoming for people with disability must be established.


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