Ending a long wait for lakhs of persons with disability in the country, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday finally passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014 with amendments. Aimed at securing and enhancing the rights of persons with disabilities, the bill stipulates a two-year jail term and a maximum fine of up to ₹5 lakh for discriminating against persons with disabilities.
The Bill will now go to the Lok Sabha for approval, and once cleared will replace the Persons with Disabilities ( Equal opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
Here are 10 key highlights of the new Bill:
1) The new bill covers 19 conditions, compared to seven disabilities mentioned in the present act. The 1995 Act recognised 7 disabilities — blindness, low vision, leprosy-cured, hearing impairment, locomotor disability. The new bill includes 19 conditions including cerebral palsy, haemophilia, multiple sclerosis, autism and thalassaemia among others. The amended version also recognises two other disabilities — resulting from acid attacks and Parkinson’s Disease.
2) The bill mentions disabled-friendly access to all public spaces as a right and entitlement for a person with disability.
3) It complies with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities
4) Individuals with at least 40% disability will be entitled to benefits like reservation in education and employment and will also get preference in government schemes.
5) The 1995 law had 3% reservation for the disabled in higher education institutions and government. The ceiling has been raised to 5% in the 2014 bill, and 1% each has been added for those having mental illnesses and multiple disabilities.
6) The legislation was drafted on the basis of recommendations given by the Sudha Kaul Committee under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
7) A major highlight of the bill is the addition of a penalty for those violating the bill. The 1995 act had no penal provisions. In contrast, the new bill has made violation of any part of the act punishable with a jail term of 6 months and/or a fine of Rs 10000. Any further violations could attract a jail term of up to 2 years and/or a fine of ₹50,000 to ₹5 lakh. The current amendments to the Bill, however, propose to remove the jail term and keep only fines.
8) The legislation had been pending in the Rajya Sabha since 2014. The government brought 119 amendments to the bill.
9) The bill also makes provisions of guardianship for those suffering from mental illnesses. District courts can grant either limited or plenary guardianship for those with mental illnesses. A limited guardian will make decisions in consultation with the mentally ill person, while a plenary will make a decision without them.
10) Disability Rights activists have hailed the bill a game changer – one that will go a long way in enhancing the rights of the disabled in the country. According to Census 2011, India has more than 2 crore people with disabilities.