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Set up Special Courts to try offences against disabled people in 10 days, orders Delhi Disabilities Commissioner

State Commissioner for Disabilities T D Dhariyal has done some tough talking. Fed up of the endless passing the buck between various departments, he has issued a suo moto order directing the government of Delhi to set up Special Courts in each district to try offences against people with disabilities, mandated under the RPWD Act.

In an important ruling, one that should set a precedent for other states, every district in Delhi has been directed to set up a Special Court to try offences against people with disabilities.

The order comes directly from the office of T D Dhariyal, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Delhi. This is the first time the disability commissioner of any state has taken such a tough stand on a provision related to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

In his letter to the Principal Secretary, Department of Law, Justice & Legislative Affairs Government of NCT of Delhi, Mr Dhariyal has directed that Sections 84 and 85 of the RPWD Act providing for the setting up of Special Courts be implemented without further delay.

In the letter he says:

For every Special Court, the State Government may, by notification, specify a Public Prosecutor or appoint an advocate, who has been in practice as an advocate for not less than seven years, as a Special Public Prosecutor for the purpose of conducting cases in that Court. - T D Dhariyal, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Delhi

Mr Dhariyal also states the qualifications that the person appointed as public prosecutor must have:

  • Practical experience of handling cases, preferably of persons with disabilities.
  • Experience at the Bar of not less than seven years.
  • Should be familiar with local language and customs..

Mr Dhariyal says he had to take this stand after attempts to get the provisions implemented were stonewalled by various departments on various pretexts. When the Delhi High Court stated that it had not received a request to designate Special Courts under the RPWD Act, a show cause notice was issued in June this year followed by a hearing on 18 July

In a letter, Mr Dhariyal has emphasised the importance of following the RPWD Act provisions as they are mandatory and give effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India has ratified.

Calling the Act "one of the most comprehensive and forward looking legislations for empowerment of persons with disabilities and their inclusion in the society", Mr Dhariyal says that every effort must be made to ensure the provisions are not caught up in procedural disputes. His order makes it binding upon the concerned authorities to ensure that within 10 days of its receipt, Special Public Prosecutors be appointed in the Special Courts.

The suo moto notice has been welcomed by disability rights advocates as long overdue. Shailja Sharma, a legal expert in disability matters and parent to a child with disability, says this will ensure swift justice if the rights of any disabled person are violated.

"It is great that each district in Delhi will get two Special Courts. This means people will not have to go the usual route to filing a police complaint and waiting for the process of law to take its usual slow course. Now there will be speedy trial", hopes Shailja.

This will also come as a relief to people with physical disabilities, she points out. "They will not have to keep going to different courts for hearings and appeals. This will save considerable trouble for them". Over two years after the RPWD Act came into effect, no other state in India has taken this step. With this order, Delhi becomes the first state to do so and hopefully, this will push other states to do the same.

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