26 Sep 2023 11:54 AM GMT
In a first, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday engaged the services of a sign language interpreter for the benefit of a hearing impaired litigant who have moved a petition for making films friendly for visually and hearing impaired individuals. Justice Prathiba M Singh noted that pursuant to the court’s order, the Registrar General engaged the services for interpreting the court proceedings,...
In a first, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday engaged the services of a sign language interpreter for the benefit of a hearing impaired litigant who have moved a petition for making films friendly for visually and hearing impaired individuals.
Justice Prathiba M Singh noted that pursuant to the court’s order, the Registrar General engaged the services for interpreting the court proceedings, for convenience of the litigant who was present physically in the court.
Another sign language interpreter was also present in court for three other similarly situated individuals with hearing impairment who joined the litigant in order to experience and understand the manner in which court proceedings are conducted.
On April 06, Justice Singh had directed the Registrar General to consider if a sign language interpreter could be arranged in the matter.
Advocate Rahul Bajaj, counsel appearing for the litigant, who himself is visually impaired, told the court that the other three individuals joined the hearing to understand the manner in which hearing impaired persons can also attend proceedings.
Accordingly, Justice Singh directed that the sign language interpreters continue to be engaged in all the hearings in the matter.
The court also directed the Registrar General to pay the fees of the interpreters directly in their bank accounts. During the hearing, Justice Singh orally said:
“We should have them [sign language interpreters] in the panel only. If someone requires them, we should be able to provide.”
Also Read: In A First, Sign Language Interpreter Appears In Supreme Court For Deaf Lawyer; Sparks Conversations On Accessibility
The court was hearing a plea seeking direction to make captions in the movie accessible for visually and hearing impaired persons. It sought inclusion of audio description, close captioning and subtitles in the film in consonance with the rights of persons with disabilities.
The plea was moved by various PwDs, including a law student, lawyers and Executive Director of the National Association for the Deaf, seeking enforcement of various rights and accessibility requirements as prescribed under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
In April, the court had directed the Union Government to hold a stakeholder consultation for making films disabled-friendly and to ensure implementation of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
During the hearing today, the counsel appearing for the Union Government placed on record the status report filed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting which stated that various steps were taken in the matter in terms of the last order.
The court noted that as per the status report, stakeholder consultation meetings were held in June and July in Mumbai. The response further said that various practical concerns were raised in the said meetings by the Film Federation of India and South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce.
The Union Ministry submitted that stakeholder consultations are going on in the right earnest and that steps will be taken to resolve the issue in hand.
Justice Singh observed that the concerns raised by the stakeholders can be easily addressed if some flexibility is shown by the Union Ministry.
“The industry would have to show more sensitivity towards the persons with disabilities inasmuch as the provisions of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act have to be borne in mind,” the court said.
It added that under Section 42 of the Act, making available tools to provide access to information and communication technology is mandatory in law and that not providing the same constitutes offences under Section 89 and 90 of the enactment.
“The law having been brought into force almost 6 to 7 years ago, the fact that persons with disabilities are unable to enjoy even basic forms of entertainment such as films is a cause of concern,” the court said.
While listing the matter for further hearing on November 02, Justice Singh impleaded the Film Federation of India, South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce and Central Board of Film Certification as party respondents in the matter.
The court also directed the Union Ministry to give publicity to the order on its website so that any stakeholders who wish to join the stakeholder consultations can do so.
Justice Singh also directed the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to remain present in court on the next date.
The case of the petitioners is that though various rights have been recognized for persons with disabilities and under the 2016 Act, films released in India are not catering to the needs of the disabled.
Case Title: AKSHAT BALDWA & ORS. v. YASH RAJ FILMS