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Education and Disability

 

The Constitution of India guarantees right to education to all children till the age of 14 years (Article 21 A). Prior to this amendment, the Courts had treated the Right to education as a part of the Right to life and liberty guaranteed under other provisions of the Constitution (Article 21). It needs to be remembered that this is a general right, and perhaps could be perceived as an attempt to make the State responsible for the education of all children till they reach a certain age.

For the first time, the right to education of disabled children was given special focus with the passing of the PWD Act. The Act mandates (under Section 26) the Central and State Governments to ensure that all children with disabilities get free education till they are eighteen years of age. Efforts should also be made to integrate these children in the regular schools and to set up special schools with vocational training facilities in deficient areas.

The PWD Act (Section 30) further mandates that special provisions such as transport facilities, removal of architectural barriers in schools, supply of books, uniform and other materials to children with disabilities to encourage them to go to school and to pursue basic education be made available. Thus, under the Act (Section 39) three percent of seats have to be reserved for children with disabilities in all the Government and government aided educational institutions.

Often, the provisions of the PWD Act are not implemented fully which compels the parents of children and young adults with disabilities to approach the Court for redressal. A large number of them seek orders for reservation in higher and professional education. In sharp contrast, very few cases are filed for intervention at the primary education levels.

In most cases, the Courts have passed favourable orders. Where there is no birth certificate, the court has ordered that an affidavit was enough as a proof of age for admissions in schools observing in the process that the fundamental right to education of a child could not be denied on the ground that no birth certificate is available. Wherever reservations were not made in educational institutions, the Courts have reiterated that reservation was mandatory and that every government educational institution had to reserve 3% of seats in admission.

In cases where the institutions have their internal rules, which may bar certain people from getting admission, the Courts have made reference to the positive rules of premiere institutions and have given orders in their favour. Similarly, when there was a controversy between the stipulated degree of disability under the Act (above 40%) and the internal rules, the Court had taken the side favoring the disabled student. There are also instances where the rules of reservation are worked around the rules laid down by apex institutions. For instance, in a case of admission to the MBBS Course, the Court opines that the rules laid down by the Medical Council of India should be considered since it is the highest body in setting rules for medical courses.

Some of the most important interventions have been where the institutions have not created a disability quota before holding the exams and where reservations are arbitrary. However, the Court has also clarified that when institutions are not directly aided they are not under any obligation to reserve seats.

On one side, are the problems that arise prior to admission to educational institutions and on the other are the cases where the problems start at a later stage - examinations, provision of scribe for visually impaired, and so on. As per the rules, blind students get extra time while writing an exam and are eligible to have a scribe as well. Therefore, wherever cases of this nature have come before the Courts, the verdict has been usually in favour of disabled persons.

On the whole, it is seen that the Courts do not dismiss petitions filed by disabled people or on their behalf without proper investigation and pays a great deal of attention to every minute detail.

Judgments related to "Education and Disability"

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