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Special-needs student missed crucial MPhil entrance exam because of Railways: Delhi HC

Delhi High Court on Monday advised the Railways to treat the specially-abled as ‘most treasured’ passengers, criticised Delhi University for its ‘adversarial stand’ against student

education Updated: Jul 25, 2017 16:30 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
DU Mphil,Disabled students,Disabled student
Vaibhav Shukla, who is visually challenged, missed his MPhil entrance exam as he failed to board his train to Delhi because the coach for specially-abled passengers was locked from inside.(Getty Images)

New Delhi Treat the disabled as the “most treasured” passengers, the Delhi High Court on Monday advised the Railways, blaming it for an incident in which a visually-impaired missed his MPhil entrance exam as he could not board a reserved coach locked from inside.

A bench of acting chief justice Gita Mittal and justice Hari Shankar noted that the youth tried to reach Delhi on July 3 for the exam to be held on July 5, but could not as he first did not get a confirmed seat.

On July 4 when he arrived at the station the train was running late. When it finally arrived, the coach for the disabled was locked from inside so he could not enter it, it recorded in its order.

The Delhi University (DU), too, was ticked off by the bench for taking an “adversarial stand” in the matter by saying that the man, Vaibhav Shukla, did not seem interested in appearing for the test as he took a train to Delhi on July 5 afternoon when the exam was scheduled in the morning of the same day.

“It is Indian Railways which prevented him from taking the exam,” the court observed during hearing of the PIL which it initiated on its own after coming across a news report that a young man missed his MPhil test as the door of a special coach for disabled in the Gorakhdham Express was shut.

“You need to do much more,” it told the Railways which claimed that it has re-designed 3200 out of nearly one lakh luggage coaches to make them disabled-friendly, with work on the rest continuing.

It advised the Railways not to put such special coaches at the extreme front or rear of a train as at smaller stations these would be outside the platform area, making it difficult for the specially-abled to access them easily.

Instead, put such coaches in the middle, the Bench said and also suggested that berths on one side of the coaches be removed to enable easier access and hassle-free movement of stretchers and wheelchairs.

If such coaches go empty, let them go empty, the judges said, adding that no able-bodied person should be allowed to board them.

The court also appointed former general manager of Indian Railways Sarabjit Arjan Singh an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist the court as he had written an article giving suggestions for making the railways a disabled-friendly network.

The court asked the Delhi University to find out if there were two question papers for the MPhil Sanskrit examination, as claimed by Shukla’s lawyer, so that the student could sit for the test.

The petitioner’s lawyer said universities prepared two sets of question papers. While one is given to the examinees, the other is kept as stand-by. The set not used in the examination could be given to his client to enable him answer it, he added.

“Message must go (out) that we cannot treat our own like this,” the court, which was told by the student’s lawyer that he had scored 82% in BA Sanskrit while studying from St Stephen’s in DU.

Shukla’s lawyer also said the student be admitted in MPhil only if he met the cut-off for general category, instead of the limit for disabled.

The court has listed the matter for further hearing on July 26.

First Published: Jul 25, 2017 14:04 IST