State officials must be made aware of the Disability Act 2016, through compulsory workshops: Bombay HC

Observing that there is a general lack of sensitivity much less duty towards the disabled, the Bombay High Court held that the state government must conduct training programmes and workshops in order to make State officials aware of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

The division bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice RI Chagla was hearing two PILs clubbed together filed by NGOs All India Handicapped Development Foundation and Rashtriya Apang Vikas Mahasangh. Both PILs sought implementation of the provisions of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, which preceded the 2016 enactment.

AGP GW Mattos submitted before the bench that the Government is sincere and aware of the situation at the ground level and would do everything possible to fulfill the mandate of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

At the very outset, Court noted-

"We may have as many compliance affidavits as the Government or the Department concerned wish to file and place on record but we would, firstly, expect the Head of the State, particularly the highest executive functionary, namely, the Chief Secretary to ensure that there are training programmes and workshops organised throughout the State to make officials of the State aware of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016."

Referring to the lack of sensitivity towards disabled persons despite the enactment completing three years, Court noted-

"This comes because there is no awareness of the fact that persons with disabilities have rights. These rights cannot be frustrated and defeated by a lacklustre attitude and refusal to implement the Law, enacted by Parliament, in right earnest. That Law has to be implemented sincerely and all efforts will have to be made for the effective implementation and enforcement thereof. That is possible only when officials of the State and those in-charge of municipal governance and civic affairs are enlightened enough and for that the State would have to conduct and carry out training and awareness programmes.

The experts in the field ought to be invited, including legal professionals to address these officers. The expectancy is that tomorrows Heads of Departments are made aware of this Legislation and particularly about the rights of persons with disabilities. It is possible that a disabled or differently-abled person may not be aware of his/her rights but he/she should not be deprived of the necessary assistance and support because of lack of sensitivity of his/her colleagues and the public at large."

Therefore, the bench observed-

"We feel that holding of programmes for the awareness of the officers of the State should be made compulsory. We would, therefore, expect such training programmes to be organised by the State and direct that such programmes be undertaken and organised by all major Departments of the State Government under the auspices of the Department of Social Justice, Government of Maharashtra."

Moreover, Court requested Senior Advocate Gayatri Singh and Meenaz Kakalia to participate in these workshops/programmes to be conducted by the State. Court also directed the State to make all arrangements for the transport of both advocates. Apart from this, the Maharashtra

State Legal Services Authority was asked to render assistance in addressing the officers of the State in this awareness programme.

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