In a first, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the Delhi University to conduct within ten days an entrance examination for the visually challenged youth who missed taking the M Phil Sanskrit entrance test as he could not board the only railway coach reserved for disabled persons.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar had taken up the matter suo motu after the plight of Vaibhav Shukla was highlighted by an English daily and summoned Railways, Delhi University and others.
“it is directed that within 10 days from today, the University of Delhi shall conduct an entrance examination for the respondent no.4 for admission to the M.Phil (Sanskrit) 2017-18 session forthwith and declare his result. In case, the respondent no.4 (Vaibhav) qualifies the said exam and is placed appropriately in the merit list, he shall be granted admission to the said course. The respondent no.4 shall be given such assistance, as permissible under the applicable rules, for undertaking the examination,” the bench ordered.
“Given the fact that equality can be ensured to the petitioner without impacting the rights of any other person and without in any manner inconveniencing the University, we are of the view that the petitioner is entitled to be given a fair opportunity to undertake an entrance exam for the M.Phil (Sanskrit) course for the academic year 2017-18. 94. It is the judicial duty of this court to issue directions to ensure such rights inasmuch as the case manifests a systemic failure to comply with the mandate of the rights of persons with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016,” it added.
Vaibhav Shukla, a blind student of the Delhi University underwent “the absolutely shocking experience” on the night intervening 4th/5 th July, 2017 “due to the acts and omissions of the State”.
Vaibhav had applied for the entrance examination for admission to the M.Phil (Sanskrit) course for 2017-18 in Delhi University under the reserved category for persons with disability. There were only two seats reserved for candidates under the persons with disability category. The examination was scheduled for July 5.
Vaibhav was in Unnao at the given point of time and had to reach Delhi for participating for this entrance examination. He first booked his ticket in Farakka Express. Even though he waited at the station up to the time of departure of the train from Unnao station on 3rd July, 2017, his wait listed booking in this train could not be confirmed. Immediately thereafter, he booked his ticket in the Jharkhand Sampark Kranti for the 4th of July 2017 which departs from Kanpur but the train was delayed. He then decided to catch the Gorakhdham Express but that also did not reach Unnao at its scheduled time of arrival.
While he was waiting for Gorakhdham express, the Bihar Sampark Kranti made an unscheduled stoppage at Unnao Station. He could not board the same because of overcrowding, The Gorakhdham Express train reached Unnao but the coach for the disabled which was located next to the engine was locked from inside and persons permitted to occupy it did not open it and Vaibhav missed the train.
The high court took up the matter suo motu when the report appeared in the newspaper.
“In the present case, Vaibhav Shukla - respondent No.4, has been physically prevented from boarding the only means of transport available to him despite having been made efforts to reach the examination hall in time. Vaibhav Shukla, though holding a valid ticket and reservation, was physically prevented from getting into the compartment of the Gorakhdam Express which was reserved for the persons with disability. There has thus been a complete denial of the Constitutional right guaranteed to him under Article 14 of the Constitution as well as his statutory rights under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016,” the court said.
“We certainly cannot stop at holding that the rights of the visually impaired persons have been impaired and that only the railways has to effect redressal because it was responsible. It is the responsibility of every authority and person to facilitate the compliance with the Constitutional mandate ensuring social justice and equality to marginalized and that the spirit, intendment and purpose of the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 are ensured”.
“The University of Delhi cannot isolate itself from undertaking such enabling measures as would secure the rights of respondent no.4 in the present case which can only be by grant of an opportunity to participate in the entrance exam for the M.Phil (Sanskrit) course for the academic year 2017-18 just as all other candidates, including the other persons in the disabled category who were not obstructed, as the respondent no.4 and consideration for admission to the course as per merit,” it said.
The bench, however, made it clear that the order has been passed in the peculiar set of circumstances in this case and would not be cited as a precedent.