The National Association for the Deaf v. Union of India,

W.P.(C) No.6250/2010, Judgment dated 24.11.2011 (Delhi High Court)

Case Summary

This was a public interest petition filed by the National Association for the Deaf before the Delhi High Court on the non-availability of sign language interpreters in public services. The petition complained of the lack of availability of adequate number of sign language interpreters in various public places and sought for directions against the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and other authorities to ensure access and better training of sign language interpreters.

While the court noted the lack of availability of sign language interpreters, it agreed with the Petitioner Association that due to non-availability of interpreters, the hearing impaired were unable to avail medical, transport and banking facilities and to also seek police help. With regard to the importance of ensuring the availability of support in the form of interpreters, the Court relied on the CRPD and held,

“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities adopted by the General Assembly and ratified by the Govt. of India on 1st October, 2007 also provides for taking appropriate measures to provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries including guides, readers and professional Sign Language Interpreters to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public. Needless to state that all the said rights are composite part of life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

Based on this, the court issued specific directions to the respondent authorities which included undertaking a survey to assess the availability and requirements for sign language interpreters, appointing nodal officers to seek information from concerned authorities and prepare a report to be used for creation of new posts, creating courses and curricula for training of interpreters.

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