Differently-Abled/Visually-Impaired Persons Not To Be Deprived Of Benefits Of RTI Act: SC Asks Authorities To Explore Technology To Make Information Accessible To Them [Read Judgment]
“We say so as differently abled persons, which include visually impaired persons, should have the functional facility to receive such information as permissible under the Act.”
The Supreme Court on Thursday disposed of a writ petition challenging Section 6 of the Right to Information Act for its ‘discrimination’ against the illiterate persons, the visually impaired persons or persons afflicted by other kinds of disabilities.
The bench comprising CJI Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud directed petitioner Aseer Jamal to submit a representation to the competent authority pointing out any other mode(s) available for getting information under the RTI Act.
Aseer Jamal had approached the Apex court contending that Section 6 of the RTI Act suffers from unreasonable classification between visually-impaired and visually-abled persons and thereby invites the frown of Article 14 of the Constitution. It was further contended that certain provisions of the Act are not accessible to orthopedically-impaired persons, persons below the poverty line and persons who do not have any access to the Internet.
Refusing to examine constitutionality of the provision, the bench recorded the Attorney General’s submission that it is obligatory on the part of the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer to render all reasonable assistance to the persons making the request orally to reduce the same in writing. As we understand from the said proviso, it will be the duty of the officer to listen to the persons and to reduce it in writing and process the same, the bench said.
The AG also told the court that that several states provide information in Braille since the year 2012 and several hotline numbers providing toll-free access to information are available on the RTI website.
The bench then ordered: “We are disposed to think that no further direction needs to be issued except granting liberty to the petitioner to submit a representation to the competent authority pointing out any other mode(s) available for getting information under the Act. If such a representation is submitted, the same shall be dealt not only with sympathy but also with concern and empathy. We say so as differently abled persons, which include visually impaired persons, should have the functional facility to receive such information as permissible under the Act. They should not be deprived of the benefit of such a utility. As indicated in the beginning, the information makes one empowered. Additionally, we think it appropriate to ask the authorities to explore any kind of advanced technology that has developed in the meantime so that other methods can be introduced. We are absolutely sure that if the petitioner would point out, the cognizance of the same shall be taken. We are also certain that the authority shall, with all sincerity and concern, explore further possibilities with the available on-line application/mechanism.”Read the Judgment Here