Lalit and Others v Govt. of NCT and Another,

W.P. (C) No. 3444/2008, Judgment dated 7.5.2010 (Delhi High Court).

Case Summary

This petition was filed by 12 inmates of the hostel attached to Andh Mahavidyalya, New Delhi, an institution for visually impaired students, seeking a direction that they may not be expelled or dispossessed from the hostel. Out of these 12 inmates, expulsion orders were issued by the Respondents against 5 inmates on the ground that the hostel was meant for only students up to Class VIII and the petitioners had overstayed beyond this class. Many of them were between 25-35 years old and it was alleged that there was a shortage of space for deserving younger visually impaired students and that they were also intimidating the younger students. One of the main issues before the Court was whether the hostel was obligated to accommodate the petitioners because of their disabled status even if it resulted in a disadvantage to the other disabled students.

Justice Muralidhar of the Delhi High Court noted that the facts illustrated the lack of decent accommodation for children with disabilities and recognised the associated problems of lack of resources, hygiene and accountability in the running of institutions with disabled children. The court held as follows:

“In the context of the inviolable human rights of the disabled, it is necessary to take note of the binding and mandatory provisions of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (specifically Sections 26 and 30) (`PDR Act’) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (`CRPD’) which has been ratified by India. In particular, Article 7 which set out the obligations of the States towards children with disabilities, Article 9 which obliges the States to take appropriate measures to ensure access to “schools, housing, medical facilities’, and Article 24 which deals with the right to education are relevant.”

The court relied upon Article 24 of the CRPD which guaranteed the right to education and held that in the context of a disabled child housed in a state-run institution there are a cluster of laws all of which can be traced to the fundamental rights to liberty and a life with dignity. It held that in the context of a young person receiving education in a state-run institution as a resident scholar, the right to shelter and decent living is an inalienable facet of the right to education itself and when the State takes over the running of an educational institution that caters to the needs of the disabled, it has to account for the ‘cascading effect’ of multiple disadvantages that such children face.

In the context of the present case however, the court held that due to the limitation of resources, all the visually impaired persons at the Andh Mahavidhyalala, irrespective of their age cannot possibly expect to be allowed to live there as the primary purpose should be to cater to the needs of young children studying up to class VIII. If this primary object was not kept in view, then it may result in an unfair denial of the right to education of other deserving young students who are visually challenged.

The court thus directed the Respondent authorities to take every possible effort to see if all the 5 inmates who were given expulsion orders could be accommodated in any of the other institutions in Delhi. Sufficient time of 6 months should be given to them to make alternative arrangements and assistance should be given to help them find alternative accommodation. The court also observed that this case should act as a wakeup call for the government to monitor the functioning generally of all institutions under its control, particularly for the disabled. This case illustrates the incorporation of the CRPD principles with regard to reasonable accommodation and right to education of children. The court was called upon to balance the two rights, which it ultimately did by taking into account the level of disabilities faced by each group demanding accommodation.

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