The Supreme Court has directed the central and state governments to grant transport allowance to deaf and dumb employees as is given to blind and orthopaedically handicapped people, and said any distinction between the two was discriminatory.
“We are inclined to allow and direct to grant transport allowance to deaf and dumb people at par with blind and orthopaedically handicapped employees of the centre and state governments and other establishments,” said the apex court bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice A.K. Sikri in a recent judgment.
The court said this while allowing a petition by two associations representing the hearing and speech impaired people. The petition sought directions to the central and state governments to grant transport allowance to employees suffering from hearing impairment.
“The deaf and dumb people have an inherent dignity, and the right to have their dignity respected and protected is the obligation on the state,” said Justice Radhakrishnan pronouncing the judgment. The court said: “Human dignity of a deaf and dumb person is harmed when he is being marginalised, ignored or devalued on the grounds that the disability that he suffers is less than a visually impaired person which, in our view, clearly violates Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
“Comparison of disabilities among ‘people with disabilities’ without any rational basis is clearly violative of Article 14 of the Constitution,” the court said. The court said the recommendation made by the ministry of health and family welfare for extending transport allowance to the hearing and speech impaired employees of the government was “perfectly legal and in consonance with Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India”.
The court rejected the view of the finance ministry that “a visually impaired person cannot be equated with hearing impaired person since people who are deaf and dumb are not physically dependent on others for commuting from one place to another”. “We are of the view that travel undertaken by deaf employees is equally arduous and burdensome compared to people having other disabilities,” the court said.
It said deaf people would not be able to hear sounds of horns and passing vehicles and cannot communicate with bus conductors, auto and taxi drivers as normal people can do. Thus, they have to seek the assistance of a stranger, and the “time and effort required to reach a destination is considerably more compared to normal people”.