Extracts from National Human Rights Commission Disability Manual 2005

Justice A.S Anand

(Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, India)

Despite a sound legal framework, a plethora of programmes, schemes and rules, improvement in the circumstances of a person with disabilities are far from visible. Their lives continue to be handicapped by social, cultural and attitudinal barriers. The different that disability represents in frequently viewed as deviation, an abnormality, a disqualification and in its extreme form, a danger against which society must be protected. The genesis of this skewed construction of disability can be traced to the ancient law of India and to a trend in western thought that provided a scientific justification to maintain social inequality on the basis of natural laws at the level of biology.

Fortunately, there is a growing realization that disability is a pervasive dimension of the diverse human cultures like gender, race, religion and language. The need therefore is to redefine the norms of social justice and human rights to make them relevant in the context of disability. On the global scale the debate on disability and human rights is gaining momentum, and is likely to result in a new Human Rights Treaty on the theme of disability. The very natural of disability and the inherent systemic discrimination and social exclusion that accompanies it means that many governments have very limited expertise in disability. In this respect a single comprehensive treaty would enable the Governments to recognize their obligations understandable terms and it would set clear target for the development of disability-inclusive system and processes. Adding a new treaty would also complement existing international standards for the right of disadvantaged.

Increasing consciousness of rights and the emergence of people with disabilities, displaying skill and knowledge to improve their own lives, are some of the factors which are contributing to the new thinking that the disable deserve a dignified status in society on the same terms as the non-disabled. In the words of Henry Viscardi Jr. ’none of us is without limitations, but sheer physical strength is no means of ability. There are no disabled people -only people. There is nothing which can substitute for human rights, no honours, no pensions, no praise, no subsidy can replace a wish to work with dignity’.

In creating a more equitable and fairer world for all, UNESCO has emphasizes the instrumental role of education, implying that education must be directed both towards the majority who should allow for participation and the minority anxious to participate. In practical term this means that not only people with disabilities should be helped to gain skills knowledge and instrument vital to their participation but it is equally crucial that the key functionaries of this democracy should know how to apply, when to apply and what kind of knowledge to apply to eradicate vicissitudes of injustices resulting in exclusion of persons with disabilities.

The NHRC has expressly been mandated to promote human rights literacy and awareness under section 12(h) of the protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. We have been serving this encompassing goal to the best of our capacity. In fact the entire range of activities of commission is directed at creating a culture in which the human rights of all, particularly of the marginalized sections, can be better promoted and protected.

As disability right is new dimension in the human rights regime, much needs to be done to develop awareness and enhance capacity of various institutions and individuals. The CHRC-NHRC-IGNOU Linkage project can be described as one of the first organized initiatives that have laid the foundation for creating new disability sensitive generation of legal practitioners. This manual is an important achievement of this project as it compiles an impressive range of positive example of disability jurisprudence. The analysis brought forth the strong point as well as gap in the law exposing the prejudice of society and the mindset of the system that seems to resist any claim to rights by persons with disabilities.

The NHRC sincerely hopes that this manual will contribute towards sensitizing and educating lawyers, NGOs, academics, human rights activists and the general public note only in their daily interactions as well. If it succeeds in doing so then it is a small but significant step in the right direction towards removing the disabled from the periphery of discourse and integrating them solidly with community.

Several queries of the practitioners and activists may have been answered in this manual but what is left can always be addressed in the next edition, which may become a possibility sooner than later. Once the elaboration of the  Disability Convention by the UN is completed in the next few years. This manual will need to revise. In the meantime, I hope that the manual will disseminate the knowledge in this area, strengthen the precedence value of the disability cases compiled herein, and encourage rapid evolution of more progressive jurisprudence.


History keeps her secret longer than most of us. But she has one secret that i will reveal to you in the greatest confidence. Sometimes there is no winner at all. And some time nobody needs to lose.