Disability and Facility of a Scribe: SC | 12 Feb 2021

Why in News

Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) directed the Central government to frame proper guidelines to regulate and facilitate grant of a facility of a scribe to persons with disability in writing exams.

  • Earlier, the SC observed that persons suffering from disabilities are also socially backward and entitled to the same benefits of relaxation as Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe candidates in public employment and education.
  • Scribe is a person who writes or word processes a student's dictated answers in exams.

Key Points

  • Background:
    • An appeal was filed by a candidate with Writer’s cramp, a chronic neurological condition which causes extreme difficulty in writing.
    • He was denied a scribe for the Civil Services Exam by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in 2018, on the ground that he did not come within the definition of person with benchmark disability.
  • Court’s Ruling:
    • Facility of a Scribe:
      • Facility of a scribe can be provided to persons with disabilities other than those having benchmark disabilities as given under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPwD) 2016.
        • Benchmark disability refers to having at least 40% disability of any type recognized under the RPwD Act 2016.
    • Directions to Government:
      • Issued a broader direction to the Union Government in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) to ensure the framing of proper guidelines which would regulate and facilitate the grant of a facility of a scribe to persons with disability within the meaning of Section 2(s) of RPwD Act where the nature of the disability operates to impose a barrier to the candidate writing an examination.
        • Asked the ministry that while formulating procedures, it may lay down appropriate norms to ensure that the condition of the candidate is duly certified by such competent medical authority as may be prescribed so as to ensure that only genuine candidates in need of the facility are able to avail of it.
        • Section 2 (s) defines ‘person with disability’. It means a person with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others.
      • The principle of reasonable accommodation in the Act captures the positive obligation of the State and private parties to provide additional support to persons with disabilities to facilitate their full and effective participation in society.
      • The 2016 Act has a more inclusive definition of “persons with disability” evidencing a shift from a stigmatising medical model of disability to a social model of disability which recognises that it is the societal and physical constraint that are at the heart of exclusion of persons with disabilities from full and effective participation in society.

Writer’s Cramp

  • Writer’s cramp is a specific type of focal dystonia that affects one's fingers, hand, or forearm.
  • Focal dystonia of the hands is a neurological movement disorder. The brain sends incorrect information to the muscles, causing involuntary, excessive muscle contractions. These signals can make one’s hands twist into odd postures.
  • Writer’s cramp is known as a task-specific dystonia. It happens almost only when one performs a particular activity like writing or typing.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016

  • Definition:
    • Disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept.
    • Benchmark disability refers to having at least 40% disability of any type recognized under the Act.
  • Types:
    • The types of disabilities have been increased from 7 to 21.
    • The Act added mental illness, autism, spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, speech and language disability, thalassemia, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, multiple disabilities including deaf blindness, acid attack victims and Parkinson’s disease which were largely ignored in earlier Act.
    • In addition, the Government has been authorized to notify any other category of specified disability.
  • Reservation:
    • It increased the quantum of reservation for people suffering from disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and from 3% to 5% in higher education institutes.
  • Education:
    • Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education. Government funded educational institutions as well as the government recognized institutions will have to provide inclusive education.
  • Accessibility:
    • Stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings in a prescribed time frame along with the Accessible India Campaign.
  • Regulatory Body:
    • The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the State Commissioners will act as regulatory bodies and Grievance Redressal agencies, monitoring implementation of the Act.
  • Special Fund:
    • A separate National and State Fund be created to provide financial support to the persons with disabilities.