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The Right of Persons with Disabilities bill- 2016

“The Right of Persons with Disabilities bill- 2016” was passed by both houses Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. The Disability Bill-2016 replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

The Indian Prime Minister termed the passage of "Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill-2016" as a 'landmark Moment', and said it will add tremendous strength to Accessible India movement.

He further said - "Under the Disability Act, the types of disabilities have increased & at the same time provisions for additional benefits have been introduced".

The bill was pending in the Parliament since 2014, which was drafted under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on the recommendation of committee headed by Sudha Kaul.

This bill covers 21 conditions instead of 7 disability conditions specified in the Act. It also opens up doors for the government to notify any other condition as a disability. This bill was introduced in 2014. At that time the bill had included 19 conditions as a disability.

The 21 disabilities which are covered under this bill are given below:-

Blindness, Low-vision, Leprosy Cured persons, Hearing Impairment (deaf and hard of hearing),  Locomotor Disability, Dwarfism, Intellectual Disability, Mental Illness, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Chronic Neurological conditions, Specific Learning Disabilities, Multiple Sclerosis, Speech and Language disability, Thalassemia, Hemophilia, Sickle Cell disease, Acid Attack victim, Parkinson's disease

The Census of 2011 shows that the total number of disabled in India is around 2.68 crore or 2.21% of the population. The Bill is expected to make a larger number of people eligible for entitlements and rights by reason of their disability since it covers more disabilities as compared to the 1995 Act. Besides this, the Bill has also adapted to the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities as according to the World Bank estimate overall about 15 percent of world’s population are affected by some of the disabilities.

Total 119 amendments were brought by the government to the Bill. The legislation of the bill has been pending in the House since February 2014.  The adaptation to the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, this Bill substitutes the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

The bill has provision of two- year jail term and a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh for any kind of discrimination against differently-abled persons. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill was passed by a voice vote after rare unanimity was witnessed among the Opposition and Treasury benches in the House.The bill was moved in Upper House earlier in December by Social Justice Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot. The bill also considers the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and related matters.

The amended version of the bill also recognized two other disabilities, which were not considered in the previous bill. These are- Parkinson’s disease and disability due to acid. Persons with at least 40 % of a disability are eligible for reservation in employment and education and priority in government schemes.
Other provisions:

1.One of the most significant parts of the bill is the addition of a penalty for violating the rules of the Act. The 1995 Act itself did not have penal provision. The 2014 Bill had maintained that violation of any provision of the Act would be punishable with fine of Rs 10,000 and/or a jail term of up to 6 months. It also maintained that subsequent violations could attract a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh and/or a jail term of up to 2 years. The current amendments to the Bill propose to remove the jail term entirely, and only keep fines for breaking the law.

2.Another point of the new bill is that it recognizes 19 conditions, instead of seven disabilities specified in the 1995 Act. The 7 disabilities were blindness, leprosy-cured, low vision, hearing impairment, mental retardation, locomotor disability, and mental illness. The 2014 Bill covered 19 conditions including hemophilia, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, thalassemia and autism among others. The amended version also recognizes two other disabilities which are Parkinson’s disease and acid attacks. The new bill has also stated provisions to allow the central government to notify any other condition as a disability.

3. This bill provides several rights and entitlements which include disabled friendly access to all public buildings and establishments. The amendments were made to include private firms in the definition of ‘establishments’, which was referred to only government bodies in the previous bill. All such establishments have to make sure that persons with disabilities are supported with barrier-free access in buildings, transport systems and all kinds of public infrastructure.

4.The Bill also has a provision that individuals with at least 40 percent of a disability are permitted for benefits like reservations in education and employment. And preference would be given to them in government schemes and others. The 1995 law had only 3 percent reservation for the disabled in higher education institutions and government while the 2014 Bill increased the reservation to 5 per cent.  The amended bill restricted it to 4 percent.

5.The Bill has also laid down provisions in the issues of guardianship of mentally ill persons.  The Bill states that the District courts may award two types of guardianship. First is limited guardian who is to take joint decisions with the mentally ill person. The second is the plenary guardian who is to take decisions on behalf of the mentally ill person, without consulting them.

6. There is an only controversial point in the bill that Section 3(3) of the bill has a clause which states that discrimination against a disabled person can be allowed if it is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. And the term “legitimate aim” seems open to the subjective interpretation of the bureaucracy.

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