The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday directed the state government to file a response to a public interest litigation (PIL) that sought relief for specially-abled school and college students during Unlock phase 2. The directions were issued after the PIL pointed out that while the government introduced online teaching for regular students, no steps were taken for special students.
The PIL claimed that 7% of the state’s population consists of differently-abled people, of which 3% are special students. However, the state has failed to make a decision or frame a policy for the educational needs of such students, and hence, the court should direct the state in this regard.
A division bench of justice AA Sayed and justice SP Tavade, while hearing the PIL filed by NGO Anamprem through advocate Uday Warunjikar, was informed that while the government had framed a policy for learning for normal students, it had failed to consider special students in the policy.
Warunjikar submitted that as no policy was framed for specially-abled students, those belonging to marginalised and rural families were being deprived of learning.
Warunjikar further submitted that while the state government permitted online lectures during Unlock phase 1 and 2, and came up with other directions for schools and colleges, there was nothing planned for those who use sign language.
“A large number of hearing-impaired students having benchmark (at least 40%) disability are beyond the scheme, and therefore, interference of this court is necessary,” the plea read.
Warunjikar further submitted that the state government should be directed to implement the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, which makes it mandatory for all educational institutions to provide inclusive education and specially-abled free infrastructure on their campuses for students with benchmark disabilities.
Warunjikar suggested that as Doordarshan (DD) or other government channels had widespread coverage and were free of charge, they should be utilised by the state while imparting education to children with those with benchmark disabilities. He added that it was a well-known fact that a large number of persons with disabilities were staying in hostels given their problem of commuting or travelling.
“The special schools also have hostel facilities, and in view of the same, the respondent [state] ought to have considered the special schools and their requirements, by issuing Unlock phase 1 and phase 2 directions,” said Warunjikar.
The state government lawyer sought time to take instructions and respond to the plea. Granting the same, the bench directed the government to file an affidavit in reply within seven days and posted further hearing next week.