After almost a decade’s wait, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 came into effect on 30 December 2016. The Lok Sabha passed it on 17 December and the Rajya Sabha on 14 December. The Act will replace the Persons with Disability (PwD) Act of 1995.
The passage of the Act took place amidst the logjam in Parliament over the issue of demonetization. Activists appreciated the Act, but many also raised concerns over the languages.
Salient features of the Act:
- Reservation in vacancies in government establishments has been increased from 3% to 4% for certain persons or class of persons with benchmark disability.
- Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education.
- District level committees will be constituted by the State Governments to address local concerns of PwDs.
- Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs.
- Broad-based Central & State Advisory Boards on Disability are to be set up to serve as apex policy-making bodies at the Central and State level.
- Office of Chief Commissioner and those of the State Commissioners of Persons with Disabilities has been strengthened.
- The Act says that any person who “intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a person with a disability in any place within public view” is punishable with imprisonment.
Some activists have raised concerns with the Act. Some complain that the Act is insufficient: they have called for more reservation of seats for disabled people. They have also raised issues over the loose language of the section against discrimination and the guardianship section. Another concern is that while the Act has increased the number of disabilities to 21, many have still being excluded. Including them would take an amendment to the Act, which could take years.
You can read the complete contents of the act here.