Suspense over competent authority delays courts for the specially abled
Delhi is yet to set up special courts to deal exclusively with alleged violations of disability laws over the question of who is the “competent authority” in the matter — the elected government or lieutenant governor (L-G)?
The state commissioner for persons with disabilities, a quasi-judicial body, had ordered the Delhi government to set up the courts in all 11 districts, as mandated under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act. The July 22 order, reviewed by HT, also directed the government to appoint public prosecutors with at least seven years’ experience in dealing with such cases.
However, senior officials in the government said that there was some differences of opinion within the law department over who is the “competent authority”.
While the Supreme Court had, in 2018, said that the L-G was bound by the aid and advice of the elected government in most matters, the L-G still has control over public order, land and police.
DELAY IN PROCESS
The proposal regarding setting up of the special courts to fast track cases have been moving from one office to another for around two years now, according to a copy of a show-cause notice that the Delhi government had received from the commissioner’s office in June 17, 2019.
It was first discussed with the government soon after the Rights for Persons with Disabilities Act was notified in 2017. In February 2018, the social welfare department of Delhi government told the state commissioner for persons with disabilities that the matter was forwarded to the law department, said the notice.
On two occasions, the notice stated, the government told the commissioner that it had approached the Delhi High Court but when the commissioner’s office checked with the registrar general of the court, it replied in the negative.
“We sent multiple reminders to the law department inquiring about the progress of the initiative but they did not yield any result. Hence, the show-cause notice was issued and a hearing was organised in June. The Delhi government was asked to notify the July 22 order by August 6 but they have not even submitted an action taken report. Now we shall urge the [Delhi] High Court to issue directions regarding the same,” said T D Dhariyal, state commissioner for persons with disabilities in Delhi. He observed, “It appeared that there was lack of consensus on whether the notification can be issued with the approval of the law minister [Kailash Gahlot] or it has to be approved and issued in the name of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi [Anil Baijal].”
A senior official in Delhi government’s law department, who did not wish to be identified, said that the matter was last discussed with the chief secretary this week but it could not be pursued further. “The problem is with ascertaining the competent authority. We have to wait for the court’s directions on this matter,” the official added.
Special courts for fast tracking cases of violation is disability laws is a requirement under sections 84 and 85 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.
Ø The matter was discussed in meetings with the Social Welfare department of Delhi government soon after the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was notified in April 2017.
Ø On February 27, 2018, social welfare department told state commissioner for persons with disabilities in Delhi that the matter has been taken up by the department of law, justice and legal affairs and that they have approached the Delhi High Court.
Ø State commissioner’s office sends multiple letters to the law department inquiring about the progress of the matter.
Ø On May 28, 2018, and on July 10, 2019, the office of the commissioner – a quasi-judicial body – learns from the registrar general of the Delhi High Court that the government has not approached the court with any such matter.
Ø Meanwhile, on June 17, the state commissioner had aalready issued a show-cause cum hearing notice to the law department.
Ø The hearing was held on July 18 in which the law department sought one month time for an action taken report but the commissioner allowed time till August 6.