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Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act: An Overview
Parliament enacted the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act in order to give effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified by India as well. The Convention placed obligations on the States, private citizens, and civil society to protect the rights of people with disabilities.
Pursuant to its obligations under the Convention, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 was passed by the House of People on the 14th of December 2016 and by the Council of States on the 16th of December 2016. The Bill received Presidential assent on December 27th, 2016. Finally, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 came into force on June 15th, 2017. The Act contains 100 sections divided into 17 chapters, with a schedule specifying the types of disabilities covered by the Act.
What does Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act define?
In the areas of education, society, law, business, economics, culture, and politics, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, works to advance and defend the rights and dignity of disabled people. The Act places responsibility on the relevant government for ensuring that the persons with disabilities have equal rights. This Act calls for an inclusive society, protects the uniqueness and dignity of disabled persons, and forbids discrimination against them.
Types of Disabilities under the Act
The Act specifies a total of 21 types of disabilities in its Schedule, with the Central Government having the authority to add more types to the list. The disabilities are as follows −
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Sickle Cell Disease
Speech and Language Impairment
Chronic Neurological Conditions
Specific learning disabilities
Acid Attack Victim
Multiple disabilities, including deaf blindness.
The Act has been meticulously drafted to cover a broad variety of disabilities, with the scope of increasing the scheduled disabilities as and when required. The concept of disability as per this Act is that disability is an evolving and dynamic concept.
A "person with disability" is defined as a person who has a long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairment that, when combined with barriers, prevents them from participating fully and effectively in society on an equal footing with others.
A “person with Benchmark Disability" means a person certified to have at least 40 per cent of a specified disability.
Rights and Entitlements under the Act
The Act provides that the appropriate government shall make endeavours to promote and ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality, life with dignity, the right to freely express their views, the right to live in the community, protection from cruelty and inhuman treatment, protection from abuse and violence, equal protection and safety in situations of risk and armed conflict, access to appropriate information regarding reproductive and family planning, the right to access to any court or tribunal or authority etc.
It also states that every child with a benchmark disability between the ages of 6 and 18 has the right to free education. Furthermore, people with benchmark disabilities have been guaranteed additional benefits such as reservations in higher education, government jobs, poverty alleviation schemes, and so on.
The Act includes a wide range of rights and protections for people with disabilities. Responsibility has been given to the appropriate government to take effective steps in order to ensure that disabled people enjoy their rights equally with others.
Provisions for Guardianship
The Act provides for the grant of limited guardianship by the District Court to a person with a disability for the purpose of taking legally binding decisions on his behalf. This guardianship will be a joint decision-making process between the guardian and the person with a disability.
The Act also provides for an appeal by such a disabled person against the decision of appointing a legal guardian.
The appropriate government and local authorities have been charged with ensuring that all recognised educational institutions provide inclusive education to children with disabilities, admit them without discrimination, provide individualised support to maximise development, detect and address specific learning disabilities in children, and so on. Furthermore, appropriate government and local authorities may conduct surveys, establish teacher training institutions, and train professionals and staff for the abovementioned purposes.
The Act provides that no government establishment shall discriminate against such a person in any matter relating to employment. Furthermore, no one should be denied a promotion solely because of their disability. Also, every such establishment is duty-bound to notify them of the equal opportunity policy.
The Act empowers the Union and state governments to ensure that at least 4% of government vacancies are reserved for people with benchmark disabilities.
The appropriate government and local authorities shall take effective steps to provide free healthcare, particularly in rural areas; priority in attendance and treatment for people with disabilities; prevent the occurrence of disabilities; promote methods for preventing disabilities; spread awareness through pre-schools or schools; and so on.
Authorities Established under the Act
These are −
The State government is empowered to appoint a Competent Authority that will issue a certificate of registration to every institution established or maintained for persons with disabilities. Such a certificate may be revoked by the competent authority if the holder of the certificate has made any incorrect or false statement in relation to the application for the issue or renewal of the certificate.
The appropriate government may appoint people with the necessary qualifications and experience as Certifying Authorities to issue disability certificates. The Central Government may notify guidelines for assessing the extent of a specified disability in a person.
Under the Act, the Central Government is required to set up a Central Advisory Board on Disability to exercise the powers and functions assigned to it under the Act. The Advisory Board is a national level consultative and advisory body on disability matters. It has the function of facilitating the continuous evolution of policy for the empowerment of persons with disabilities and full enjoyment of rights; advising the government on policies; reviewing and coordinating the activities of all departments dealing with disability matters; monitoring and evaluating the impact of laws; etc.
Similarly, state governments shall constitute State Advisory Boards on Disabilities for the purpose of performing functions and exercising powers assigned to them under the Act.
The Act empowers the Central Government to appoint a Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and two Commissioners to assist the Chief Commissioner. The Chief Commissioner has functions like identifying laws or policies inconsistent with this Act and recommending corrective steps; inquiring into the deprivation of rights of persons with disabilities; reviewing the factors that inhibit the enjoyment of rights of such persons and suggesting corrective steps; monitoring the implementation of this Act, etc. The Chief Commissioner has the power to summon and enforce the attendance of witnesses, require production of any documents, receive evidence on affidavits, etc.
Similarly, state governments may appoint a State Commissioner for Disabled People.
If someone caught discriminating against any person who is disable, the Act imposes fine ranging between 5,000 and 10,000 and some cases, also imprisonment for a term ranging from six months to two years.
The Act is undoubtedly a revolutionary law. It signals a radical shift from laws based on charitable giving to laws based on rights. Rights protected by the Act ensure social justice for those with disabilities, while special provisions for work and education ensure economic fairness for those with disabilities. The rights already protected by the Constitution are institutionalised by the Act. However, the Act's implementation would need to be closely watched. Even after the Act came into effect, disabled individuals have been denied a number of statutory rights, and the judiciary must take the initiative to ensure that the Act's provisions are followed effectively.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Which Act is replaced by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act?
Ans: The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act has replaced the pre-existing Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
Q2. What are the objectives of this Act?
Ans: Primary objectives are:
To guarantee that disabled individuals can live lives of dignity and respect and can exercise their right to equality.
To safeguard disabled individuals from all forms of prejudice. The goal of the Act is to guarantee the full social, political, and economic involvement of people with disabilities.
It seeks to empower persons with disabilities through inclusive growth and engaged engagement in society.
Q3. What are the Constitutional provisions relating to persons with disabilities?
Ans: Every law that exists has to subscribe to the basic essential principles of the Constitution. The object of this Act is in line with the right to a dignified life guaranteed under Article 21 and the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Moreover, Article 41 states that a state shall make effective provisions for securing the right to work, to education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disablement, within the limits of its economic capacity and development.
Q4. What are the provisions with respect to special courts under the Act?
Ans: As per Section 84 of the Act, State Government is required to specify a Court of Session to be a Special Court to try the offences under this Act. This is for the purpose of providing a speedy trial to persons with disabilities. The State Government shall also specify a Special Public Prosecutor in this regard.
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