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Madras High Court Rejects PIL Challenging Use Of 'Derogatory Terminologies' (Divyang/Divyangjan) For Persons With Disabilities

Sparsh Upadhyay
25 April 2021 5:43 AM GMT
Madras High Court Rejects PIL Challenging Use Of Derogatory Terminologies (Divyang/Divyangjan) For Persons With Disabilities
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The greater emphasis should be on the effective measures adopted by the State rather than following the fad of political correctness as to the expressions used to describe them: Madras High Court

The Madras High Court earlier this week disposed of a Public Interest Litigation Petition without giving any directions/relief which sought removal of the 'derogatory terminologies' (divyang/divyangjan) or 'mental retardation' or any such terminologies from use in all legislation, policies, government regulations and government websites and from public discourse.Before the Bench of Chief...

The Madras High Court earlier this week disposed of a Public Interest Litigation Petition without giving any directions/relief which sought removal of the 'derogatory terminologies' (divyang/divyangjan) or 'mental retardation' or any such terminologies from use in all legislation, policies, government regulations and government websites and from public discourse.

Before the Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, the petitioner claimed that the use of the words divyang and divyangjan or the expression mental retardation were derogatory in any legislation, regulation, or policy.

Importantly, the Court, while disposing of the plea remarked,

"While the effort of the petitioner is appreciated to ensure that otherwise abled persons or persons with disabilities are not demeaned or treated as pariah as a result of the manner of description of such persons, the greater emphasis should be on the effective measures adopted by the State rather than following the fad of political correctness as to the expressions used to describe them."

The Court also noted that in a conscious effort to ensure the use of appropriate words and expressions, the Union had arrived at the words "divyang" and "divyangjan" in consultation with the States and Union Territories and that such matter should not be stretched to the point of absurdity.

The Court also noticed that the expression "mental retardation" had been corrected to "intellectual disabilities".

Further, the Court also observed that it was more important to take into account the measures taken by the State to help the lot of some of our brethren who may not have the use of all faculties like most others or may be challenged in some form or the other.

Importantly, the Court stated,

"Of late, there has been a change in the use of several expressions since they were found to be derogatory or not according to the dignity to the class of persons previously answering to such description, despite there being no intent to humiliate such persons by the use of such expressions."

Lastly, disposing of the plea, the Court said,

"Nothing in this order will prevent better expressions to be used instead of those complained against and such better expressions evolved upon due consultation, so that persons with disabilities and those who are otherwise abled or even suffer from intellectual disabilities may find the system to be inclusive."

Case title – M. Karpagam v. The Chief Commissioner and ors. [W.P.No.12663 of 2020]

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