Supreme Court Grants One Week’s Time To Centre To Respond

The Supreme Court on Friday granted one week’s time to Centre to respond to a plea filed seeking directions to Centre to issue specific guidelines to ensure that students with disabilities participate equally with others in online classes.

A Bench comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice CT Ravikumar was hearing the plea filed by Javed Abidi Foundation, which has also sought directions to take into consideration the plight of students with disabilities while finalising the examination schedule.

During the hearing, Advocate Sanchita jain appearing for the petitioner Foundation submitted that the matter relates to online education not taking into account the access needs and need for accommodation

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Union of India sought some time to file an affidavit in the matter. She added that some guidelines have been issued by the government and the petitioners have also made constructive suggestions.

In response to the Court’s query as to why the petitioner’s representation has not been decided so far, ASG informed the Court that they have not been able to get instructions from the Ministry Of Education.

In response to ASG’s request for longer time, the Bench said ” their academic year will start. If you’re going to give them some relief do it early, that’s all what we are saying “

The Bench listed the matter on 8th October, to enable the respondent to file an affidavit.

The present plea filed through Advocate Sanchita Jain has further sought directions to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and Department of Higher Education, to ensure that the said guidelines are strictly implemented within a specified period failing which the penalty as stipulated under Section 89 of the RPWD Act should be imposed strictly with immediate effect.

Further, according to the petitioner, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and the Department of Higher Education should be directed to implement the provisions of the RPWD Act, more particularly Sections 16 and 17, in its letter and spirit.

The present plea has argued that denial of any reasonable accommodation for accessing online education at a time when most of the classes are being conducted online constitutes discrimination against students with disabilities under Section 2(h) of the RPWD Act and thus violates their right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.

“The RPWD Act creates an obligation on the part of the State to take positive measures to ensure that in reality persons with disabilities get enabled to exercise their rights. It is submitted that this kind of divide has been created not by the online medium of education, but by the absence of recognition of specific rights of students with disabilities to provide access to online education.” the plea has stated.

Case Title: Javed Abidi Foundation v. Union of India

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