The working draft to harmonise the disability legislation with international protocols has drawn flak from disability rights activists, objecting to omission of essential issues.
Two years after India ratified United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the ministry of social justice and empowerment has been working on this new draft to replace the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, to enable approximately 70 crore disabled people in India.
Among the provisions of the working draft of the 'Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2010' is setting up of a Disability Right Authority (DRA).
It would facilitate the formulation of disability policy and law to set up standards and accessibility guidelines for a range of premises, including all buildings and facilities used by the public irrespective of ownership.
Chairperson of the committee formed to come up with the new draft, Dr Sudha Kaul said, "There are always these questions about who will implement the various provisions. DRA is the possible answer to that."
The working draft also provides remedial measure to modify recruitment and related rules even for private sector through simple steps like provision of scribes during examination or setting up of employment exchanges to cater to the persons with disabilities.
But there are certain basic objections. SK Rungta, an advocate for visually impaired and the general secretary of National Federation of the Blind, said, "With the new law, it would be difficult to use the positive case laws generated after the 1995 Act. Also, it runs the risk of being struck down by the court if it is in conflict with other Acts. For instance, safeguarding rights of mentally retarded persons under new law can be in contravention with the Indian Contract Act."
Javed Abidi of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) pointed out, "The draft law violates the basic tenet of UNCPRD that says 'Nothing About Us Without Us'. Where are the stakeholders? What is our participation in coming up with this draft?"
Abidi also questioned exclusion of provisions of national trust Act and the Rehabilitation Council of India Act to which Kaul assured, "We are developing the draft law keeping in tune with the UNCRPD giving it the Indian context. It is still being debated."
Kaul, who is also the executive director of Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (Kolkata), insisted, "The draft is still evolving. December-end is our deadline, which is highly unlikely and we would ask for more time."
* The PwD Act:
Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights & Full Participation) Act 1995
* The National Trust Act:
The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act 1999
* The Mental Health Act:
The Mental Health Act 1987 for treatment and care of mentally ill persons, to make better provisions with respect to their
property and affairs and related matters.
* The RCI Act:
The Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992 for regulating the training of rehabilitation professionals and the maintenance of a Central Rehabilitation Register and for related matters.