Thursday, March 6, 2014

HC Seeks Govts' Response on Admission of Disabled


The Delhi High Court today sought responses of the Centre and the city government on a PIL challenging the Lt Governor's nursery admission guidelines to the extent that it clubs disabled children with kids from the economically weaker groups.

A bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and R V Easwar asked the Centre to indicate in its reply the steps taken, including the funding mechanism, to grant the benefits provided under the Persons with Disabilities Act.

"Issue notice. The respondents shall file their counter affidavits within a week and the Centre's affidavit shall indicate the steps taken pursuant to the Disabilities Act in particular the funding mechanism provided under it and the categorisation of various disabilities for the purpose of granting its benefit," the court said.

The petition by Pramod Arora, father of a child with special needs, alleges the LG's admission guidelines "grossly limits the opportunity of differently-abled children to secure admission in schools catering to special educational needs of such children".

"The order of the Lt Governor with respect to disabled children is passed on the basis of changes incorporated by the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Act, 2012 that has amended the RTE Act of 2009 to include 'a child with disability' in the category of disadvantaged children," senior advocate Kirti Uppal, appearing for the petitioner, argued.

"The said amendment to the RTE Act is unconstitutional inasmuch as it has curtailed the special provisions of the Disabilities Act, 1995, by which disabled children have an established right to access to education as they have special needs and may not be at par to compete with children of normal cognitive ability.

"The amendment of 2012 to the RTE Act, 2009, instead of strengthening this right and making the rights fundamental for disabled children, has put them at a far more disadvantaged position inasmuch as they are now subject to a lottery based selection," the petition, filed through advocate Kiran Kalra and Anshumaan Sahni, states.

During the proceedings, Uppal argued the clubbing of children with special needs with the 25 per cent economically weaker groups would also subsume or entirely extinguish the claim of the special children to their right to education.

The counsel for Delhi government said she will have to seek instructions.

The petition seeks quashing of the amendment to RTE Act, 2009 alleging it is ultra vires to the Constitution and sought directions "to restore the position with regard to admission of children with disabilities at the pre-primary and primary level as it had existed prior to the order of December 18, 2013".

Earlier, schools had the discretion to grant certain points to the parents of children with special needs, which no longer exists.

Seeking 3 per cent reservation for the childrens with disabilities in aided and unaided private schools in Delhi, the petition said the effect of the new guidelines would be to place the already disadvantaged children having learning disabilities at a more disadvantagous position.

"The government has failed in its duty to provide sufficient schools catering in particular to children with special needs despite several directions to this effect on various petitions taken up by the High Court.

"Instead, their actions have resulted in limiting whatever little rights the children with special needs had of getting education in the few schools which have the infrastructure and can cater to the needs of the children with disabilities," the petition said.

It further said, "Clubbing together of children with disabilities with economically weaker sections is unreasonable as the challenges faced by these two classes of children differ greatly.

"Therefore, carving out a separate provision for accommodating children with special needs or disabilities would not violate Article 14 of the Constitution of India as it is a reasonable classification and in consonance with The Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995."

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