Thursday, February 22, 2024

Patna High Court directs State Commissioner to conduct survey on total number of children with disability

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The Patna High Court directed the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities shall also file an affidavit regarding the total number of children with disabilities in the State after conducting a survey/census within a period of three months ,

The Division bench of Chief Justice K Vinod Chandran and Justice Madhuresh Prasad heard a Public Interest Litigation filed for better facilities to be provided in Girija Shankar Drishti Vihin Balika Vidyalaya in Jagdishpur Block of Bhagalpur district.

By Order dated 06.01.2020, a Division Bench of the High Court expanded the scope of the petition to cover all the institutions situated within the State of Bihar, meant to house and educate the students who are visually impaired. Yet another Division Bench by Order dated 05.12.2020 emphasized the need to provide special protection for children with disabilities, from abuse, violence and exploitation in the background of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 enacted pursuant to and to effectuate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Court also noticed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 which mandated compulsory education for children up to the age of 14 years wherein Section 2 (ee) defined a child with disabilities; thus providing such right to education also to a child with disabilities. The State was thus found obligated to provide for and create infrastructure for the education of children with special needs.

From the affidavit filed by the Chief Secretary, eight specified institutions, where education is imparted to visually impaired children, and children with other disabilities were noticed. On the basis of a census of the year 2011, the Bench observed that there were approximately 1.72 lakh children within the age group of 3 to 14 and there was no data available as to how many among them are visually impaired. The Amicus Curiae had at that point itself pointed out that the State would be competent to provide the data required under Section 17 of the Disabilities Act. The State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities was specifically impleaded after posing a question as to whether it has discharged its functions in terms of Section 80.

The Court further observed that the Chief Secretary’s affidavit does not disclose-

(a) the number of students admitted in each one of the educational institutions;

(b) the student-teacher ratio and

(c) the infrastructural facilities in existence. The intake capacity of the different schools and whether they are competent to cater to the needs of all the eligible children of Bihar was also not clear. It was hence, specifically directed that such data should be placed before the Court through personal affidavits filed by the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar and the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.

On April 07 , when the matter was taken up, the Additional Advocate General had referred to the counter affidavit filed by the Additional Chief Secretary, Education Department, Government of Bihar dated 14.10.2022 .

Having looked through the specific paragraph pointed out by the Additional Advocate General, the Court found that it only refers to the various recommendations and schemes contemplating better facilities for the disabled but does not contain the details or the answer to the specific queries raised by this Court in the above referred orders, specifically with respect to the facilities provided to visually impaired children, which is the focus of the litigation.

The Bench opined that by the nature of the orders passed, scope of the litigation should also encompass the needs of all the children with disabilities as covered under the Disabilities Act.

In the above circumstances, the High Court directed the the State through the Education Department to place before the Bench the details of the visually impaired children and the children facing other impairments as covered under the Disabilities Act, who are at present admitted and continuing their studies in the eight specified institutions and also the other institutions, wherein such facilities to deal with and cater to the needs of the physically challenged children, are said to have been provided by the learned Advocate General.

The Court further directed that such affidavit to contain tabulated details of the schools, the number of physically challenged children in each of the disabilities mentioned in the Disabilities Act, the facilities provided therein, the number of teachers with special skills to deal with such physically challenged children and also the special qualifications, such teachers have acquired. The affidavit should also contain the number of children who are day scholars and the children who have been provided with boarding facilities.

It is directed by the Bench that the affidavit by the Additional Chief Secretary holding charge of the Education Department shall be placed on record within a period of three weeks.

Matter will be listed next on 26.04.2023 for further hearing.

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