No wonder people often exclaim on the road "are you deaf?" when they don't get a side while overtaking another vehicle. Well, this long settled notion is going to wither away in India while we are moving towards more equalitarian and rights based society with this Writ Petition not only being admitted by the Delhi High Court on the petition filed by my colleagues at HRLN, more particularly Mr. Pankaj Sinha, the young lawyer, but also calling upon the Government of India to respond as to why this Writ not be issued and made absolute in favour of the petitioners.
You will be surprised to know that earlier also such attempts were made at Delhi High Court by the NGOs but the petitions were dismissed at the admission stage itself. But this time, a well drafted and well researched document was prepared by the lawyers and also perhaps first time articles of UNCRPD were used to articulate the injustice being meted out to this segment of the disabled fraternity in India.
World over the deaf are allowed to drive vehicles like any body else with some additional conditions of an extra back view mirror. This is with the scientific rationale that driving involves almost 80-90% visual activity and Deaf could be safe drivers without any risk to fellow travellers. Additionally with many new gadgets coming in the market to compensate the loss of hearing with other sensory organs, this discrimination is of course against the very principle of equality that Constitution of India grants to all its citizens including those experiencing hearing difficulties.
The Writ Petition being a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) is going to have far reaching consequences for the Ministry of Transport for they have to evolve now to address this issue and change all their laws, rules, procedures, forms, medical statements etc to include this segment.
I congratulate NAD (National Association of the Deaf), Advocate Pankaj Sinha and Senior Advocate Collin Gonsalves and 50 million deaf Indians on this success. We have moved a step further towards realising equality for all in India.
The news coverage:
'Should deaf drive? Centre says yes; HC to take call'
Why should an Indian deaf national be denied this right?
COLIN GONSALVES, Senior lawyer
Here's some good news for around 50 million hearing impaired people in the country.
The Centre has submitted before Delhi High Court that it is considering allowing those suffering from hearing disability to obtain a driving licence.
The archaic Motor Vehicles Act prohibits the deaf from obtaining a drivers' licence, saying they could be a "source of danger to the public".
The court is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) seeking a direction to quash the requirement of having "no hearing impairment for the issuance of driving licence".
A Bench of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice Manmohan on Friday recorded the statement by Additional Solicitor General A.S. Chandiok appearing for the Centre that they are considering all the relevant materials and will make appropriate recommendations on issuing driving licences to the hearing impaired. The process is set to be completed in four weeks.
Road Transport and Highways Ministry counsel Jyoti Singh said medical experts are of the view that those who can hear sound up to 60 decibels with the use of hearing aid can be permitted hold a driving licence for private vehicles, while those with hearing level up to 40 decibels with hearing aid can be allowed to drive commercial vehicles.
Singh said a specially constituted high-powered committee of the ministry will soon meet to discuss the issue.
DELHI COPS BACK PLAN
The PIL also draws strength from views expressed by Delhi Police on its website that deafness does not render one incapable of driving safely. "There is no reason why deaf people should not be allowed to drive,"the website says. But it suggests use of additional rear-view mirrors by this category of drivers The NAD said the deaf are allowed to drive all over the world, except in 26 countries. In the UK, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Thailand and Malaysia authorities insist on special double rear-view mirrors. In Malaysia and Sri Lanka this category of drivers are to indicate the handicap by putting a sticker on the back of the car so that other drivers do not hoot at the driver. But they are not allowed to drive commercial or passenger vehicles.
Senior lawyer and human rights activist Colin Gonsalves, who represented the NAD, told the court that discrimination against the deaf in India was a clear violation of Article 14 of the constitution.
"A deaf person with an international driver's licence is able to drive in India, then why should an Indian deaf national be denied this right? The Constitution demands equality for all before the law," he said.