Disability Laws in India


Concept of Disability:
Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person's body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

Disability is a contested concept, with different meanings for different communities. It may be used to refer to physical or mental attributes that some institutions, particularly medicine, view as needing to be fixed. It may refer to limitations imposed on people by the constraints of an albeit society. Or the term may serve to refer to the identity of people with disabilities. It can be said that it is an impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or some combination of these. It substantially affects a person's life activities and may be present from birth or occur during a person's lifetime.

Legal Rights of The Disabled In India:

The Constitution of India applies uniformly to every legal citizen of India, whether they are healthy or disabled in any way (physically or mentally). The Constitution of India secures to the citizens including the disabled, a right of justice, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, equality of status and of opportunity and for the promotion of fraternity. The right to Education is available to all citizens including the disabled. The Constitution directs the State to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they attain the age of 14 years. The health laws of India have many provisions for the disabled. Some of the acts which make provision for the health of the citizens including the disabled may be seen in the Mental Act, 1987. Various laws relating to the marriage enacted by the Government for different communities apply equally to the disabled. There are certain circumstances that will disable a person from undertaking a marriage.

They are:

·       When the either party is a lunatic;

·       When the parties are unable to give a valid consent because of the unsound mind;

·       When the parties are within the degree of prohibited relationship.

Under the Succession Act, 1956 which applies to Hindus it has been specifically provided that physical disability or physical deformity would not remove a person from inheriting ancestral property. The rights of the disabled have not been spelt out so well in the labour legislations but provisions which cater to the disabled in their relationship with the employer are contained in delegated legislations such as rules, regulations and standing orders.

Constitutional aspects:-
The Constitution of India has guaranteed full protection to the rights of disabled people. The Preamble of the Constitution contains the concept of social justice and equality of status and opportunity to all the people of India. Article 14 & 16 of the Constitution which guarantee equality of opportunity to all citizen of India. Article 38 of the Constitution which subsides within Directive Principles of State Policy, requires the State to promote the welfare of the people by securing a social order in which social, economic and political justice can inform to all institutions of national life and the State is required to make efforts to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities amongst individuals.

Various Statutory legislations In India:

1) Persons with disabilities (PWD) (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act, 1995: The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 had come into enforcement on February 7, 1996. It is an important step which ensures equal opportunities for the people with disabilities and their full participation in the nation building. The Act provides for both the preventive and promotional aspects of rehabilitation like education, employment and vocational training, reservation, research and manpower development, creation of barrier- free environment, rehabilitation of persons with disability, unemployment allowance for the disabled, special insurance scheme for the disabled employees and establishment of homes for persons with severe disability etc.

2) The Mental Health Act, 1987: The Mental Health Act,1987 was enacted to regulate admissions to psychiatric hospitals and  psychiatric nursing homes of mentally ill-persons who do not have sufficient understanding to seek treatment on a voluntary basis and to protect the rights of such persons while being detained, to protect society from the presence of mentally ill persons who have become or might become a danger or nuisance to others among other provisions.

3) The Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992:
It was passed to regulate the man power development programmes in the field of education of persons with special needs. The main objectives are to regulate the training policies and programmes in the field of rehabilitation of people with disabilities, to standardize training courses for rehabilitation professionals and also for ensuring the establishment of rehabilitation centres.

4) The Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923:
If any injury or accident is caused to the workman in the course of work or employment then his employer has to pay compensation. As per Section 4 of the above Act, where permanent total disablement results from the injury, an amount equal to 60% of the monthly wages of the injured workman multiplied by the relevant factor or amount of twenty thousand rupees whichever is more.

5) Employee’s State Insurance Act, 1948:
Periodical payment shall be made to an insured person suffering from disablement as a result of an employment injury sustained as an employee under this Act and certified to be eligible for such payments by an authority specified in this behalf by the regulations. In India, the disabled citizens have the same rights as other citizens to a descent standard of living and economic security, right to work, education, employment and also right to access and communication.

Decided cases in India:
In Javed Abidi v. Union of India - The Supreme Court bearing in mind the discomfort and harassment suffering by a person of locomotors disability would face while travelling by train particularly to far off places, issued direction to the Indian Airlines to grant persons suffering from locomotors disability to the extent of 80%.

In Chandan Kumar Banik v. State of West Bengal - The Supreme Court has given the order to provide respite to mentally challenged inmates of a hospital in Hooghly district who were being kept chained by the hospital authority to control their unruly and violent behavior.

In National Federation of Blind v. Union Public Service commission - The Supreme Court held that, the UPSC may be directed to allow blind person for appearing the examinations for Indian Administrative and allied services.

In Govt. of NCT of Delhi v. Bharat Lal Meena - The Delhi High Court held that people with disabilities can be appointed as physical education teachers provided they have passed the qualifying examination and undergone the requisite training.


Disability refers to the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by the way society is organized which takes little or no account of people who have physical, sensory or mental impairments. As a result such people are excluded and prevented from participating effectively on equal terms in mainstream society. Disability is an unfortunate part of human life which can effect not only the natural way of living but also despair component strength and power.

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