Keeping aside the acrimony over the demonetisation issue, which paralysed the Winter session, the Parliament today passed the Disabilities Bill that stipulates up to a two-year jail term and a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh for discriminating against differently-abled persons.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House during the passage of the bill. Earlier on Wednesday, the Rajya Sabha too had witnessed similar bonhomie for passage of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016. Replying to the debate, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot announced that a scheme of 'universal identity card for the disabled' is on the anvil and an agency has already been finalised for the purpose.
The proposed card would also be linked to the Aadhar card to help the disabled all over the country in a seamless fashion, he said. Gehlot said the universal identity card is being acted upon to overcome the problem of disability certificate being faced by those affected. He said the government has joined hands with German and British firms for making available state-of-the-art limbs to the disabled wherever possible.
The Lok Sabha witnessed a division on an amendment by Congress and TRS members seeking to raise the reservation in the bill from 4 to 5 percent. It was defeated by 121 to 43 votes. K C Venugopal of the Congress who had given the amendment pressed for the division.
Members from both sides supported the bill but suggested certain changes to improve the measure. Interestingly, the bill had been originally moved in 2014 in Rajya Sabha by then Union minister Mallikarjun Kharge who is now Leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha. The bill, which aims at securing and enhancing the rights and entitlements of disabled persons, also gives effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and related matters. It provides for imprisonment of at least six months up to two years, along with a fine ranging between Rs 10,000 and Rs 5 lakh for discriminating against differently-abled persons.
Moving the bill for consideration and passage today, Gehlot said out of 82 recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, 59 were accepted by the government. The bill, he said, has increased the number of categories of disabled persons to 21.
The Union Cabinet had earlier approved these amendments to the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (RPWD) Bill, 2014, that had replaced the 1995 Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act.
In the bill, disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept and the types of disabilities have been increased from existing seven to 21. The Centre will have the power to add more types of disabilities to it. The types of disabilities now include mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions. It also strengthens the office of chief commissioner and state commissioners for Persons with Disabilities which will act as regulatory bodies.
The bill was examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee last year. Then, a Group of Ministers, headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, examined its provisions and sent their recommendations to the Prime Minister's Office.