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Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act—Amendment, 2020

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwDA) was passed in response to India’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The establishment of the act was hailed as a landmark event in the fight for the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PwD). This act works to protect PwD falling under 21 categories which include but are not limited to blindness, hearing impairment, mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, acid attack victims, learning disability, and haemophilia. The act provides a person with disabilities reservation for government jobs, free schooling, and has mandated the establishment of district-level committees and specialised courts to address any grievances.

[Image credits: Council of Europe]

The government has proposed an amendment to this act as a plea to decriminalise minor offences. The amendment attempts to revise Sections 89, 92(a), and 93. These sections outline the guidelines on the punishment for breaking the rules under this act, with a minimum six-month jail sentence going up to five years. The act also mandates the production of relevant documents or information and failure to do so results in a fine. Most importantly, the act dictates a minimum sentence of six months to anyone who “intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a PwD in any place within public view.” 

The addition of Section 95(a) states that, if the rights of a PwD under these sections is violated, the case against the offending party can be revoked by the State and Chief Commissioners with the aggrieved party’s consent. It aims to reduce the penalties for offences under these sections drastically. This amendment has been drafted to prevent minor crimes against PwD from deterring foreign and domestic investments, and adversely impacting business sentiments. Additionally, it will prevent courts from backing up smaller cases allowing for a quicker discharge. The reasoning behind this is that companies would be deterred from doing business due to the fear of being penalised or legal repercussions under the existing law. This will also help restore trust in carrying out business. 

[Image credits: WHO EMRO]

In India, 2.11 per cent or 26.8 million people are legally recognised as PwD. This community is already under pronounced duress given the ongoing pandemic especially regarding physical distancing, self-isolating, mental health, job security, accessing essential services, and above all being at a higher risk for COVID-19 due to existing health issues. The proposed amendment could drastically worsen the situation for PwD while failing to protect their fundamental human rights.

The public can submit their comments or suggestions regarding this via mail to [email protected] or [email protected]  by 10th July 2020.
The format of the mail is provided under Annexure-II of given word document.
More information about the act can be found here.

Update: The concerns raised over this were heard and the amendment will not be implemented. 

Featured Image Credits: Sara

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