The Supreme Court Thursday ruled that there could be no discrimination among persons with disabilities and that the government must provide equal benefits to all such people under the law.
A Bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and A K Sikri relied on the objective of the Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, and reminded the government that no further classification can be made on the basis of kind of disability a person is suffering with.
"The Disabilities Act does not create any barrier or discrimination among persons with disabilities... When a person is having any of the disabilities mentioned in Section 2(i) and is so certified by the doctor, he is entitled to the benefits of all the schemes and benefits provided by the government and there can be no further discrimination among the persons with varied or different types of disabilities," held the court.
The court order restricts government authorities from discriminating among different classes of disabled persons such as blind, deaf, dumb and orthopaedically handicapped, in matter of providing job opportunities or other benefits.
The SC noted that any comparison of disabilities among "persons of disabilities", without any rational basis, was violative of Articles 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution.
The court ruling came on a petition by two associations representing the deaf and dumb persons, employed as central and state government employees. They sought a direction to the governments for granting transport allowance them in equal with what was given to blinds and orthopedically handicapped employees.
While the the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare supported their stand, Finance Ministry contended deaf and dumb were a class different from blind and orthopedically handicapped persons and hence their entitlement should be different.
The court reproached the Finance Ministry's over its argument, saying "the human dignity of a deaf and dumb person is harmed when he is being marginalized, ignored or devalued on the ground that the disability that he suffers is less than a visually impaired person which, in our view, clearly violates Article 21 of the Constitution of India."
The court hence ordered the Centre and state governments to grant transport allowance to deaf and dumb persons also on par with blinds and orthopaedically handicapped employees.