Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Disability in india

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Accessibility Standards for law enforcement

Context

The Draft Accessibility Standards/Guidelines recently released by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for built infrastructure under its purview (police stations, prisons and disaster mitigation centres) and services associated with them assume significance.

What are the provisions under the Standards?

  • Models for police stations: The Standards set out models for building new police stations as well as improving upon existing police stations and prisons that are modern, gender sensitive and accessible.
  • The Standards speak to the need to make the websites and institutional social networks of police stations accessible, ensuring that persons with disabilities accused of committing any crimes are treated appropriately, having disabled-friendly entrances to police stations and disabled-friendly toilets.
  • Inclusive police force: the Standards state that the police staff on civil duty could be persons with disabilities.
  • Equal protection during natural disasters: Acknowledging that persons with disabilities must receive equal protection as others in such situations, the Standards provide direction on disability inclusion in disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery efforts.
  • They also stress on disability inclusive training for persons involved in disaster relief activities, data aggregation, use of information and communication technology (ICT) and enforcing accessible infrastructure models for schools, hospitals and shelters following the principle of universal design.
  • Accessibility norm: The Standards introduce accessibility norms for services associated with police stations and prisons.
  • These norms promote the use of ICTs to facilitate communication, development of police websites, app-based services for filing complaints, making enquiries, etc., as well as encouraging the use of sign language, communication systems such as Braille, images for persons with psycho-social disabilities, and other augmentative and alternative modes of communication.

Shortcomings of the Standards/norms

  • Accessibility of signage not ensured: The Standards call for the deployment of directional signage regarding accessibility features in the MHA’s physical infrastructure as well as to indicate the location of accessible toilets.
  • However, they do not require that such signage itself be accessible to the visually challenged, such as through auditory means.
  • Certain accommodations merely recommendatory: The Standards characterise several reasonable accommodations that are necessary for the disabled as being merely recommendatory.
  • These include having trained police personnel in every police station to assist persons with disabilities and placing beepers at all entrances to enable the visually challenged/blind to locate themselves.
  • Lack of detail on human assistance: In the case of Patan Jamal Vali, the Court suggested connecting special educators and interpreters with police stations to operationalise the reasonable accommodations embodied in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.
  • While the standards do require developing a mechanism to provide human assistance to the disabled such as sign language interpreters, they are short on specifics on this count.
  • Lack of representation: Interestingly, the Standards state that the police staff on civil duty could be persons with disabilities.
  • This is inconsistent with the Office Memorandum issued by the Department of Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities on August 18, 2021, according to which the Centre has exempted posts in the Indian Police Service; the Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshdweep, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli Police Service; as well as the Indian Railway Protection Force Service from the mandated 4% reservation for persons with disabilities in government jobs.

Conclusion

In sum, the Standards, when enacted into law, will mark a huge step forward in making our law enforcement apparatus more disabled-friendly. Bolstering the Standards further, by incorporating the suggestions flowing from well- thought-out public comments, will take us closer to the aim of ensuring that India’s disabled citizens truly have the police they deserve.

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