This definitely is not good news for the roughly five crore (50 million) hearing-impaired people in India.
Two months after telling Delhi High Court that it was considering allowing the deaf in India to drive, the Centre did a U-turn on Wednesday.
This time, the government told the court that, in the light of poor road manners in India and the frightening accident rate — the highest in the world — the hearing impaired cannot be given licences.
Jyoti Singh, the counsel for Road Transport and Highways Ministry, said before a bench of Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice S Muralidhar that the decision was taken at a meeting of the special meeting of Central Motor Vehicles Rules- technical standing committee convened on December 9, 2009.
The court is hearing a public interest petition by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) seeking a direction to quash the requirement of having ‘no hearing impairment for the issuance of driving licence’.
The archaic Motor Vehicles Act prohibits the deaf from obtaining a driver’s licence, saying they could be a ‘source of danger to the public’.
NAD’s lawyer and human rights activist Colin Gonsalves had contended that the hearing impaired are allowed to drive in all but 26 countries.
He said, in the UK, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Thailand and Malaysia, authorities only insist on special double rear-view mirrors. In Malaysia and Sri Lanka, this category of drivers are to indicate the handicap by putting a sticker on the back of their cars, so that other drivers do not hoot. But they are not allowed to drive commercial or passenger vehicles.
“Indian roads are far more hazardous than of those countries mentioned by the PIL,” the committee concluded.