” ‘Interactive Session with Senior Advocate Pankaj Sinha’ held on 4th Aug 2022.”

On August 4th 2022, the Centre for Disability Law and Advocacy organised an interactive session with Senior Advocate Pankaj Sinha. The session was open to all the students and faculty of the University. The session was held in an informal manner where the attendees got to interact with the speaker and express their opinions, views and raise questions regarding the issues discussed.

After the introduction of the speaker, our Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ved Kumari, started off the event by sharing incidents with respect to students with disability in the campus and then invited the speaker to begin the session.

The speaker, Mr Pankaj Sinha, is a Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India. He has many such cases to his name that have made many facilities accessible to persons with disabilities.

During the session, Mr. Pankaj Sinha had touched upon many issues concerning persons with disabilities. There were discussions about preconceived notions with regard to how any person with a disability is always seen as being dependent. A thought provoking point was raised at this juncture as to how every human being, disabled or otherwise, is always dependent on someone or something. No person is ever entirely self-dependent. The question made all the attendees think of their own biases and set forth the attitude of the attendees for the rest of the session.

Then the speaker discussed the history of legislation regarding the Rights of Persons with Disabilities dating back to earlier legislations. During this, there was a reference to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that had categorised persons with disabilities as a category of diversity instead of categorising them as a vulnerable group. Sir also drew parallels between the treatment of women in society earlier and the treatment of persons with disabilities now and discussed how women were not allowed to give evidence in court. Undermining of the abilities of certain groups of people has always been there, it is the society’s process to move away from it.

Then the speaker discussed the barriers faced by people with disabilities by giving examples from everyday society and also his personal life. The main barrier he talked about are the attitudinal barriers, social barriers, communication barriers and political barriers. Most people presume things for the persons with disabilities. They are not even addressed directly. The questions are always put to any person without disability accompanying them. This kind of behaviour sets in a huge barrier which is most commonly seen.

The attendees were then asked if any sign-language interpreters are present in any public place like an airport etc. When the answer was negative, the speaker remarked that it is the environment and the surroundings that disable a person. To draw a parallel, Sir discussed how students from reserved category are assumed to be less competent when in reality they had far fewer resources than anyone else. Therefore, clarifying how the surroundings make one disabled.

Before concluding, Sir went on to discuss two of his prominent cases, the Driving licence for the visually impaired case came about when the speaker was working with HRLN and it was a case that was earlier dismissed by the Supreme Court. Sir mentioned about his research that how a person with hearing impairment can travel to a foreign city, receive a driving licence there and that licence will be valid in India but the same person will not be given a licence if he/she stayed in India itself and applied for licence. It was also pointed out that the Delhi Police Advisory provided for persons with hearing impairments driving with the use of extra mirrors, etc. to ensure the ability.

Then Sir briefly discussed the Concessional railway e-ticket booking case, which basically arose because of the concession for travellers with disabilities being available only for in-counter booking and not online. Sir also addressed several questions raised by the attendees.

The entire session was extremely motivational and definitely a learning step for most of the attendees. The speaker challenged the attendees' biases and perception towards how we treat a person with disabilities.

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