Bengal NGOs to file petition asking legal fraternity to show sensitivity towards disabled people during cases
Leading disability rights NGOs in Bengal plan to move a prayer asking the legal fraternity to be held accountable for insensitive comments about disability in court.
“Leave aside your imaginary stories about your autistic child. As if we don’t know what is what.”
This comment was made in the presence of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Criminal Court, Alipore during a hearing in a divorce case. It was made by a senior lawyer to Dr Aditi Bandopadyaya, disability rights activist and single mother.
Aditi, whose 11-year-old son has autism, has described this on social media as ‘mental abuse’. “Do lawyers have the right to speak any nonsense in court to mentally abuse their opponent? Do they have the right to sham a disability? Do they have the right to openly harass a mother striving hard singlehandedly with her own parents to get the child properly intervened? There are many single mothers like me harassed, abandoned and yet blamed maliciously and even beaten up for giving birth to a special needs child”.
Two leading Bengal NGOs Bhavna Child Development Centre and Parivar Bengal are taking this matter seriously. They will file a prayer before the Chief Judicial Magistrate and District Judge of Alipore Court. They want the legal fraternity be held accountable for such statements.
There is a provision in RPD Act 2016 U/S 6 for protection from cruelty and inhuman treatment and U/S 7 for protection from abuse, violence and exploitation. We pray humbly before you to kindly take our appeal into consideration and do the needful, to restrict use of insensitive remarks about any disability in future.
Not the first instance of discrimination towards disabled
“This happens all the time”, says Dr Sudeshna Chowdhury, Bhavna Child Development Centre. “Aditi is the first to speak up. This is insulting and unacceptable”.
The remarks are more shocking when legal experts make them, says Rashmi Mantri, special educator at Apeejay School, Kolkata. “Where are we headed if the legal fraternity has such open disregard for the RPWD Act 2016? Our society lacks basic awareness about disability. Look at how children and adults with disabilities are treated”.
The NGOs want the a code of conduct laid down for legal fraternity. “When you target the mother of a child with autism, the child is indirectly being bullied as well”, adds Rashmi.
Aditi wanted the lawyer to finish cross examining her day as she was a single mother with no support. This was a reasonable request. The lawyer’s response shows the insensitivity people with disabilities and their families face from unexpected quarters. It highlights the need for sensitisation trainings across all levels of authority.