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Delhi High Court directs JNU to provide free hostel accommodation to visually-disabled student pursuing Master’s degree

The Delhi High Court has directed the Jawaharlal Nehru University to provide within a week, free-of-cost hostel accommodation to a visually disabled student pursuing a Master’s degree at the varsity.

The single-judge Bench of Justice C Hari Shankar observed on Monday that as per the hostel manual, JNU cannot deny hostel accommodation to any of its differently-abled students.

It said petitioner Sanjeev Kumar Mishra was entitled to hostel accommodation, provided by the JNU within its campus, free of cost, along with all other entitlements to which a differently-abled student was entitled under the law and the policies of JNU, till the completion of his Master’s degree in Sociology.

The single-judge Bench further said that the appropriate term to describe persons with disability would be ‘differently abled’ and not ‘disabled’.

It said the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPWD Act) and all laws striving to provide support to a person suffering from a disability, merely sought to neutralize the disability, so that the person’s ability matched the rest of his peers, and to ensure that they all stand on an equal footing.

The single-judge Bench said that this was the heart of the theory of equal opportunity, as given in Article 14, and in the Constitution as a whole.

Because of this, the more appropriate term to use would be ‘differently abled’, rather than ‘disabled’, added the High Court.

Sanjeev Mishra had approached the High Court seeking directions to JNU to allot him a hostel room.

The Counsel representing JNU contended that Mishra was pursuing a second Master’s level course and the hostel manual did not entitle him to accommodation.

However, the High Court ruled that no empirical data was provided by JNU to indicate that it would be unreasonable to provide hostel accommodation to the petitioner and in absence of any such data, JNU’s stand cannot be sustained.

The High Court further said that given the means to tide over the difference, a differently-abled person no longer remained differently-abled, but became a part of the homogeneous human whole. After the difference in ability was neutralised, the individual was able to rise to his full stature, and invoke his innate talents & faculties to their fullest extent.

In such a situation, the person who was otherwise regarded as “disabled” often equaled, if not excelled, his more redoubtable peers in the profession that he pursued, it added.

It said Advocate Rahul Bajaj, representing petitioner Sanjeev Kumar Mishra, was a luminescent example.

Central Government Standing Counsel (CGSC) Monika Arora, along with Advocates Subhrodeep Saha and Kushal, appeared for JNU.

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