The University Grants Commission has informed the Supreme Court that it has issued draft guidelines to ensure access for persons with disabilities to higher education institutions and has solicited input from stakeholders.
Monday, March 14, in a miscellaneous petition in public interest litigation (“PIL”) filed for the benefit of people with disabilities as defined by the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 , replaced by the Disability Rights Act 2016, Lawyer, Mr. Manoj Ranjan Sinha appearing on behalf of the University Grants Commission (“UGC”) advised a panel of judges D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant that the Draft Comprehensive Accessibility Guidelines and Standards for Higher Education Institutions and Universities have been notified on the UGC website and suggestions are sought from stakeholders. The deadline for seeking comments has been extended to March 25, 2022.
In the said PIL, by its judgment of 15.12.2017, the Supreme Court had ordered that all higher education institutions under government control or receiving government aid reserve at least 5% of seats for persons with disabilities during the admission of students into teaching courses each year or face consecutive measures. In this document, the Court had further ordered –
“(ii) With respect to the suggestions given by the applicant in the form of “Guidelines for Accessibility for Students with Disabilities in Universities/Colleges”, the UGC will examine the feasibility by forming a committee for this purpose. On this committee, the UGC would be free to include individuals from the Central Advisory Council, State Advisory Councils, Chief Commissioner of State Commissioners appointed under the Persons with Disabilities Act. committee will undertake a detailed study to make provisions in terms of accessibility as well as pedagogy and will also propose the methods of implementation of these suggestions, their financing and their follow-up, etc. The committee also sets the deadlines within which these suggestions could be implemented. The Committee of Experts may also examine the possibility of setting up an internal body in each educational institution. (of teachers, staff, students and parents) to meet the daily needs of the various disabled people as well as for the implementation of the plans that would be developed by the Committee of Experts. This exercise must be completed by June 30, 2018.”
Subsequently, a Miscellaneous Request was filed to ensure that the Committee referred to in the judgment of 15.12.2017 was well constituted and that measures were taken by the said Committee to fulfill its mandate. On the first day of the examination of the application, i.e. 25.10.2019, Mr Sinha informed the Court that a committee had been set up in execution of the judgment. He asked for time to file a report indicating the measures already taken by UGC. On 08.10.2021, the Court was informed that the report was ready. Subsequently, time was requested on a number of occasions to table the updated progress report on the Guidelines. On 10.01.2022, the Supreme Court asked the UGC to be proactive and ordered it to ensure that the guidelines are finalized before the next court date. He had also realized –
“The report and guidelines should be made available to all relevant stakeholders and should be uploaded to the UGC website.”
As the UGC is currently in the process of finalizing accessibility guidelines, the Court has decided to enter the case after three months so that it can be updated with a new status report.
Case Title: Disabled Rights Group v. Indian Union
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw(SC) 50
Click here to read/download the order