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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

Blind Delhi lawyer earns senior tag

Harish V Nair, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 02, 2011
First Published: 23:52 IST(2/8/2011) | Last Updated: 02:14 IST(3/8/2011)

When a judge refused to accept a blind man attesting a will as a witness in a case he was pleading, SK Rungta argued that the law didn't disqualify a blind person from being a witness.

Had that been the case, a blind person couldn't have practised law, as a lawyer has to identify the clients on accepting the brief, he said.

Rungta got his point across. That was eight years ago.

Last week, the Delhi high court judges voted to designate the 57-year-old blind advocate a 'senior' - a first for the country.

"A major barrier is broken. It symbolises changing attitude of judges and the bar towards the ability of a blind person to discharge judicial responsibilities," said the lawyer, who has spent 30 years arguing in courtrooms, running fingers over bulky notes prepared in Braille.

The senior tag is considered an honour and recognition of a lawyer's understanding of law. Rungta can also charge a higher fee, but that's unlikely. He doesn't charge blind clients and most of the others are from the weaker sections.

When he started out in 1982, the biggest challenge was to win the confidence of clients.

"They had to be convinced they would be very well defended by a blind lawyer," said Rungta, who was born blind and practices in lower courts, the high court and Supreme Court.

Handling around 1,000 briefs, Rungta, who is also the general secretary of National Federation of Blind, is spearheading a legal battle in the top court for the rights of 15 million blind people in India after the Centre challenged a Delhi high court's 2008 order asking it to earmark jobs for the blind.

"Thirteen years after the disability act made 1% job reservation for the blind in government and PSUs obligatory, it remains on paper," said the lawyer, who comes from Kanpur and is passionate about the rights of the disabled.


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