The Bombay High Court on Thursday referred to the communication restrictions in Kashmir and sought to know how will a mobile application (app) proposed by RBI help visually-impaired people identify currency notes in such situations.
A division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre made the reference to the temporary clampdown, which has affected mobile telephone and Internet services in Kashmir, after being informed by the RBI that it would be coming up with the mobile-based app which can be used by visually-impaired people to identify currency notes.
“Technology has its own limitations. What will happen when a visually impaired person loses his mobile phone network or is not allowed to use his phone somewhere,” Chief Justice Nandrajog asked.
“We have a state (Jammu and Kashmir) where mobile phones were not allowed…(post scrapping of J&K’s special status on August 5) there is no network connectivity in some parts. What will happen then,” he asked.
The court added that even in cities like Mumbai, a person sometimes does not have mobile phone network.
“We owe some obligation to the visually-impaired persons to make things easy for them. We should not be making things difficult,” Chief Justice Nandrajog said.
The court said the RBI, by now declaring it would come up with the mobile app was giving a solution to a problem that was its own creation.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the National Association of the Blind (NAB), claiming new currency notes and coins posed difficulty for the visually-impaired people in identifying and distinguishing them.
The bench on Thursday said technology like mobile apps are hardly a match for skills developed by a visually-impaired person by the touch of his hands.
“Nature has its own compensatory ways. Visually-impaired persons lose their sense of vision but their other senses like smell and touch are heightened,” the court noted.
By changing the size and dimensions of a currency note, the apex bank was taking away the skills developed by a visually-impaired person to identify such bills, it added.
The bench had last month asked the banking regulator to explain the need for changing the size and physical features of currency notes.
“The size and dimensions of the currency notes have been changed only once from 1967 to 2019. In 2018, the RBI changed certain features of some currency notes.
“However, in the future, there is not going to be any more changes,” RBI counsel Venkatesh Dhond said on Thursday.
When the court asked why after so many years, in 2018 the RBI felt the need to change the size and dimensions of the currency notes, he said one of the reasons was to make the notes “wallet-friendly”.
“Internationally, for example the US Dollar, the currency notes are wallet-friendly. Even the RBI felt the need to do the same,” Dhond said.
He further told the court that the new notes above the Rs 100 denomination have particular pattern markings on the side for identification purposes.
“These patterns are raised and are called bleed lines. However, they are not there in Rs 10 and 50 notes as we noticed that the patterns tend to fade sooner in these notes due to higher use,” Dhond said.
The court posted the petition for further hearing on Friday.