The chief piece of legislation governing the rights of disabled people is the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. A cursory search reveals that since its inception, our High Court has passed nearly 1,500 leading judgments concerning the statute.
Various acts have detailed formulae according to which the percentage of a person’s disability is calculated. The courts are called upon to account for the nature of a person’s duties and the extent to which the disability affects them.
For instance, the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923 details the kinds of injuries which would amount to 100 per cent disablement, such as the loss of a hand or foot, severe facial disfigurement, etc. Partial loss of vision in one eye amounts to 10 per cent disability.
The courts have recognised the constitutional significance of protecting the rights of disabled persons.
In the case of MCGM vs Shrirang Anandrao Jadhav, the BEST bus driver had been declared unfit for duty after he injured his fingers during a stone pelting incident.
Justice Dr D Y Chandrachud said, “The Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, is a Parliamentary recognition of the special needs of persons with disabilities; of the affirmative action that is required to protect their life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution and to ensure them a right of dignified existence.”
In another case a government-employed telephone operator who became partially deaf was sacked when asked for a transfer. His appeal to the Disability Commissioner under the 1995 Act was rejected as he was “not covered” by the act. After knocking on the doors of the Bombay High Court, it set aside the commissioner’s order, and directed his employer to give him back-wages and a new post.
Through the court’s efforts, visually handicapped men have received telephone booths, crippled bus drivers have got new jobs, and a polio-stricken doctor — a new lease of life.