Thursday, March 27, 2014

Not providing reservation for disabled in Higher Judicial Service amounts to Discrimination - rules Delhi HC

A Division bench of Delhi High Court presided by Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice R.V. Easwar observed that arbitrary denial of 3% reservation for persons with disabilities in terms of The Persons with Disabilities Act 1995,  would amount to discrimination.

Writing judgement in the case titled W.P.(C) 983/2014 Nishant S. Diwan Versus High Court of Delhi on 25th March 2014, , the bench observed that the Disabilities Act made it mandatory for all government organisations to reserve at least 3 per cent vacancies for the disabled and that the decision of the High Court administration to not include the disability quota in the upcoming direct recruitment process for the Delhi Higher Judicial Services was “arbitrary and discriminatory”.

The bench also struck down the argument that a five-judge committee on 09.03.2007, made no recommendation in respect of DHJS while making recommendation about the DJS (comprising of civil judges and magistrates only) saying that the Committee had considered the proposal in the background of whether to provide for reservations in DJS and there was no explicit reference to DHJS.

To access the Judgement pronounced on 25 March 2014 click link here: Delhi High Court Judgement in W.P.(C) 983/2014 Nishant S. Diwan Versus High Court of Delhi

Click here to access the Supreme Court Judgement in Civil Apeal No. 9096/2013 (Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 7541 of 2009) titled Union of India and Anr  Versus National Federation of Blind and others.

The court has also directed the establishment to carry out a review of the remaining number of vacancies in the DHJS that can be “appropriately earmarked for those with disabilities according to the total number of sanctioned posts”, following which it could recruit the appropriate number of persons in the next round of recruitment.

The court has directed the administration to carry out a “special recruitment procedure” for only the earmarked vacancies falling to the share of those entitled to be considered under the 3 per cent quota under the Disabilities Act, within a year of the date of declaration of results in the current recruitment process.

DHJS refers to appellate courts, which exercise appellate authority over the lowest level of judiciary. Direct recruitment to DHJS is done through an examination held by the High Court Establishment (HCE).

The HCE had issued an advertisement for recruitment to 14 posts in December last year, setting aside four seats for SC/ST candidates and 10 for general category. The examination for these seats is scheduled to be held on April 6.

The order was given on a plea filed by an advocate who is a person with locomotor disability, who had alleged that non-inclusion of disability quota in the DHJS recruitment was “contrary to the express provisions of the Disabilities Act”.

Advocate Nishant S Diwan, who has been practicing as an advocate since 1998, had also argued that the HCE was “under a duty to set-apart appropriate number of posts having regard to the total cadre strength of 224 posts in DHJS”.

The HCE had taken the decision that the disability quota would not apply to the DHJS recruitments and would only apply to the magistrates and civil Judges, since the notification issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had mentioned only “magistrates of the subordinate judiciary”. The HCE had also taken the plea that since the examination was scheduled for April 6, imposition of any quota at this late stage would “upset the entire timeline and delay the recruitment process”.

The court held that “there can be no difference for reservation under the Disabilities Act” between the DJS and the DHJS since the DHJS officers perform duties and functions similar to those in DJS.

The court directed the administration to set aside one of the 14 posts for persons eligible under the disability quota, but has directed that the seat should be kept vacant and should be clubbed with the next round of recruitment.

Since as per the Supreme Court judgement in UOI Versus National Federation of Blind, it is clarified that the section 33 is independent of Section 32 for making reservation, the Hon'ble Court should have also passed directions to calculate the backlog of the total vacancies since 01 Jan 1996 and not reserving one seat in the present recruitment process.

Also the list of identified posts makes a mention that posts with different nomenclature but with similar functions out to be reserved. Also since posts of DHJS are also promotional posts for the lower judiciary, these can not remain beyond the purview of reservation  in both direct recruitment as well as promotional reservation envisaged by the judgement of the Hon'ble Supreme Court ibid.

Delhi HC issues notices to Civic Agencies on Barrier Free Pedestrian Infrastructure

A Division Bench headed by the Acting Chief Justice B. D. Ahmed and Justice Sidharth Mridul of Delhi High Court on 26 March 2014, issued notices to Govt. of Delhi, civic bodies, Traffic Police, Police Commissioner & DDA  on a public interest litigation that sought a direction to ensure barrier free pedestrian infrastructure in the city of Delhi. The responses are to be filed by May 26, 2014.

The petitioner Mr. Vinod Kumar Bansal, a social worker stressed that parking spaces should be provided to the physically challenged in line with the Master Plan Delhi 2021. The petition sought the court's direction to the Delhi government and civic agencies to install auditory signals at red lights on public roads for physically handicapped which have not been provided despite clear cut provision in the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995.

The petition further sought directions to make pavements wheelchair-friendly. "Footpaths, pavements and public roads are laid only for the purpose for passing through by the pedestrians / vehicles and are also meant for passage only and for no other purpose or business but the shopkeepers are misusing the footpaths, pavements and to some extent roads in Delhi," the PIL said.

The petition titled  Vinod Kumar Bansal Versus Govt. of NCT Delhi and Others registered as W.P.(C) 1977/2014, also points out that footpaths and pavements are constructed for free and safe passage for and by the pedestrians. However, authorities have ignored their duty to regulate, maintain and control the free flow of traffic and of the general public at large. The petition seeks to make all pavements wheelchair friendly.

More updates soon!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Right to medical aid is State's responsibility - HC directs Govt. to cut down bureaucratic chain & fund the treatment of children with genetic disorder

Court comes to the aid of two dying patients

Akanksha Jain, New Delhi, March 21, 2014

“We need to cut down the bureaucratic chain so that the money reaches needy patients,” the High Court told the Delhi Government on Thursday.

A Bench of Justice Manmohan made this remark while dealing with pleas of two poor patients who suffer from genetic disorders and have sought medical aid from the State.

One of them is 36-year-old Amit Ahuja, a bed-ridden haemophiliac, who lost his left leg and continues to bleed in a ward at the Lok Nayak Jaya Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP) with multiple bedsores and a pseudo tumour in the right leg.

Criticizing the government and its hospitals for not creating dedicated bank accounts where the public can donate money for the treatment of poor patients, the Bench asked: “Has anyone heard of any account of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences [AIIMS] or LNJP for anyone to deposit money by way of charity? Why is it not in place? Why is LNJP shy of accepting public money for poor patients?”

When told by the Health Secretary that the Government has one such account, the Bench said: “We need to cut down the bureaucratic chain so that money reaches the needy. The account should be subject to audit. The head of any government hospital should not need to request the State for treating the poor.”

Hearing the plea of Mr. Ahuja, the court said: “No person can bleed to death.”

Meanwhile, the Bench transferred Rs.7.75 lakh collected by High Court lawyers into a bank account of AIIMS for immediate treatment of Mohammad Ahmed, the son of rickshawpuller Mohammad Sirajuddin who broke down outside court while talking to The Hindu .

“Even the Prime Minister’s Office did not come to aid when I lost three children to the same disorder,” he said.

“I am faced with grave crisis today. One person is bleeding, his wounds are not healing. The other patient needs enzyme therapy. His three siblings have died of the same disorder. I have to look for a legal answer to this. Every person has a right to medical aid,” Justice Manmohan said.

During the hearing, counsel for Mr. Ahuja advocate Gurmit Singh Hans told the Bench that he is being treated for the disorder since he was nine-months-old, but now when all his family assets stand exhausted the hospital has denied him treatment, which is worsening his condition.

The LNJP Hospital Department Head told the Bench that the only drug available for haemophilia costs more than Rs.50 lakh and is to be given daily to the patient.

“When medical science has made some advances, we have to give it to the common man. Otherwise what is the idea of having such lofty ideas in the Constitution? It cannot be only for the high and mighty,” the Bench said.

“We need to cut down bureaucratic chain so the money reaches needy patients”

Source: The Hindu

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Welfare Trust Fund for Disabled swells to 223 crore; remains unutilized

The documents submitted in Supreme Court show that the trust has so far has utilised only Rs 18.59 crore towards extending benefits to physically disabled.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | March 3, 2014 11:49 pm

A fund created on the order of the Supreme Court for welfare of the disabled has swollen to Rs 223 crore, but not even 10 per cent of it has been utilised in almost a decade now.

The only plan in place, a scholarship scheme for disabled students, is yet to be introduced in any of the union territories or Northeastern states.

In 2004, the court had ordered that the Comptroller and Auditor General set up a trust with the money recovered by it from banks as illegal collection from borrowers. The money, the court said, would be used for the benefit of disabled. The trust was to be managed by the CAG as its chairman, with the finance secretary and law secretary as ex-officio members.

The RBI recently wrote to the under secretary, Ministry of Finance, that Rs 173 crore in all had been deposited in the fund. While 46 commercial banks had deposited Rs 154 crore towards excess interest charged to borrowers, Rs 19.5 crore had been deposited as part of the additional Rs 50 lakh each the banks gave in accordance with the Supreme Court order.

This money, Additional Solicitor General Rakesh Khanna informed a Supreme Court bench led by Justice K S Radhakrishnan recently, has grown to Rs 223 crore along with interest.

However, as the documents submitted in court showed, the trust has so far utilised a meagre Rs 18.59 crore towards according benefits to the physically challenged. Only money allotted for a scholarship scheme has been entirely used, benefiting 1,500 students per year. The number of scholarships has now been raised to 2,000 students per year.

Documents also revealed that no union territory or Northeastern state barring Assam had benefited from the scholarship scheme, which has more male recipients than female.

At a hearing earlier, ASG Khanna had told the court about the recovery of the amount so far and sought some additional orders on issues like merger of banks, or closure of banking operations by some entities, mode of recovery from state finance corporations etc.

The bench, which was hearing a petition filed by Ravi Shankar Bhushan, a disabled person working in an NGO, said it would pass appropriate orders with assistance from the petitioner’s counsel Colin Gonsalves.

US Supreme Court questions Death Penalty based on rigid IQ score threshold for determining intellectual disability

US Supreme Court scrutinizes Florida’s death penalty law

WASHINGTON — Florida’s death penalty came under fire from a key Supreme Court justice Monday, as a divided court confronted the role of low IQ scores in exempting convicted murderers from execution.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s frequent swing vote, joined more liberal justices in questioning Florida’s rigid IQ score threshold for determining intellectual disability. Kennedy’s positioning hinted at the possibility that the court, probably on a close vote, might strike down the strict IQ rule used by Florida, Idaho, Kentucky and several other death-penalty states.

More broadly, Kennedy raised doubts about Florida’s administration of the death penalty and the long delays that have ensued. His implicit criticism went beyond Monday’s case, and hinted at other capital punishment debates to come.

“The last 10 people Florida has executed have spent an average of 24.9 years on death row,” Kennedy reminded Florida Solicitor General Allen Winsor. “Do you think that is consistent with the purposes of the death penalty, and is it consistent with sound administration of the justice system?”

Pressed several times, Winsor noted that Florida lawmakers had addressed “a number of issues” Kennedy raised with passage of legislation last year. Many prison inmates have since challenged the state’s Timely Justice Act, which is now before the Florida Supreme Court.

Freddie Lee Hall, the 68-year-old convicted murderer whose case was before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, has been on the state’s death row since 1978. He and an accomplice were convicted of murdering a 21-year-old pregnant woman and a Hernando County deputy sheriff.

“He is the one who seized the young woman, who pushed her into a car, who drove the car with his accomplice following in another car and who killed her, and . . . killed a policeman, too, later,” Justice Antonin Scalia recounted, suggesting that Hall’s actions showed some level of mental competence.

Hall didn’t raise the mental retardation issue for the first 10 years of his imprisonment. After he did, Kennedy noted pointedly, five years passed before the state conducted the hearing designed to assess his intellectual capacity.

The Supreme Court has previously decided, in a 2002 case called Atkins v. Virginia, that the execution of those variously called mentally retarded or intellectually disabled violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The court left the definition up to individual states.

Florida imposes a three-part test, which starts with a rigid requirement that the inmate score 70 or below on the IQ test. If the inmate scores below the cutoff number, the state also will assess for “deficits in adaptive behavior” and an onset before the age of 18.

“Florida has an interest in ensuring that the people who evade execution because of mental retardation are, in fact, mentally retarded,” Winsor said.

Hall and his allies counter that Florida errs by not taking into account the standard 5-point margin of error, which means someone who scores a 75 might actually have a testable IQ of 70.

“If a state conditions the opportunity to demonstrate mental retardation on obtained IQ test scores, it cannot ignore the measurement error that is inherent in those scores, that is a statistical feature of the test instrument itself,” Hall’s attorney, former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, told the court.

Kennedy joined Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and, in particular, Elena Kagan in raising questions about Florida’s rigid IQ testing cutoff.

“Your rule prevents us getting a better understanding of whether that IQ score is accurate or not,” Kennedy told Winsor.

Kagan added that “we know from the way these standard margins of error work” that an inmate who scores a 71 might actually “have an IQ of 69.” Hall has registered IQ scores from the low 70s to as high as 80.

Scalia was most vociferous in his apparent support for Florida’s rigid rule, arguing that courts should defer to a state’s legislative judgment rather than look to evolving standards set by groups such as the American Psychological Association.

“This APA is the same organization that once said homosexuality was a mental disability and now says it’s perfectly normal,” Scalia said. “They change their minds.”

Cornell Law School Professor John H. Blume, a death penalty expert, said in an email interview that only “around 10” death row inmates with borderline IQ scores stand to benefit immediately if the Supreme Court sides with Hall in the case heard Monday.

Justice Clarence Thomas, as is his habit, was the only one of the nine justices not to speak or ask questions during the hourlong argument. A decision is expected by the end of June.

Source: Central Daily