Volume 3 Issue 9 - May 01, 2005

Legal cell for persons with disabilities launched in Orissa

DNIS News Network - Swabhiman, in collaboration with N.C.P.E.D.P., launched a legal cell in Orissa for disabled people.

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Swabhiman launched a Legal Cell for persons with disability in collaboration with National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) and All Orissa Young Lawyers’ Association on April 9, 2003, in Bhubaneswar, Orissa. The British High Commission supported this initiative.

The meeting started with the introduction of guests by Dr. Sruti Mohapatra, Secretary General of Swabhiman. Justice I.M. Quddusi from Orissa High Court was the Chief Guest. Dr. S.B. Agnihotri, Secretary Women & Child Development Department and Commissioner Disability, was the Guest of Honour. Among others present were eminent jurists, lawyers, persons with disabilities, parents, social activists, and representatives from NGOs and media persons.

Dr. Mohapatra said, “In western countries and developing nations [people] have started looking at disability as a development issue. In India, the approach and attitude the society adopts is yet to be changed. Few grants, aids and doles cannot change the lives of disabled people nor would these help them lead a dignified life.” Talking about previous cases of violence and injustice against disabled people, she recalls that they mostly ended with dissatisfactory results. “These failures compelled us to think beyond such type of efforts and the idea of Legal Cell sprang up.” Dr. Mohapatra’s view was that with the launching of the legal cell, better results could be expected in cases like this.

In his speech, Dr. Agnihotri said that he had taken many initiatives to ameliorate the conditions of persons with disabilities in the state of Orissa. He stated that, “When law and order deteriorates the most vulnerable people are worst affected. In this line this initiative of Legal Cell has a greater role to play.”

Justice I.M. Quddusi informed the audience about some of the provisions made by the Constitution and said that Article 14 mandates that the State shall not deny any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territories of India. Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act provides that the members of SC/ST, victims of human trafficking, women, children, people with learning difficulties or otherwise disabled, victims of mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster, as well as persons in custody or protective homes, juvenile homes, psychiatric homes, and economically weaker sections of the society are entitled to appropriate legal services to be rendered by the Authorities and Committees under the Act. He said, however, despite all these provisions and prohibitive mandates of the Constitution, people with disabilities were found still suffering from deprivation, which prevented them from enforcing their legal rights. Lauding the efforts of Swabhiman, Justice Quddusi said, “It has been realised by now in all quarters that unless non-governmental organisations participate with full dedication in tandem with the Statutory Authorities and Committees, from national to the taluk level, in sensitising people about the rights of people suffering from disabilities and in identifying the prospective beneficiaries by formulating appropriate schemes, the aims and objectives cannot be achieved.”

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