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Visually Challenged & Print-Disabled Persons Facing "Book Famine": Madras High Court

Upasana Sajeev
22 Oct 2022 7:00 AM GMT
Visually Challenged & Print-Disabled Persons Facing Book Famine: Madras High Court

The Madras High Court recently expressed concern over the "book famine" being faced by the present generation where people with print disabilities including visually challenged persons do not have access to printed works and books.

Justice R Mahadevan and Justice Sathya Narayana Prasad were hearing a plea for bringing out Braille Version of Thirukkural in Tamil and English languages to ensure that the visually challenged people could read, recite and enjoy the essence of Thirukkural.

Noting that the Central Institute of Classical Tamil had already taken steps to issue and distribute 45 Sanga Ilakkiya Noolgal including the Thirukkural in braille format to the Visually Challenged persons free of cost, the court directed the authorities to give wide publicity about the availability of the Sangam Literature in braille form so that more persons could enjoy the same.

It referred to the 'Marrakesh Treaty' which coined the term 'book famine' in light of dearth of accessibility of books to the persons with disabilities and emphasized on breaking such barriers and facilitating access to published works for persons, who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.

While emphasizing the importance of Thirukkural in literature, the Madras High Court recently observed that the book is a Holy Book like the Bible and the Quran and is acceptable to everyday life.

There cannot be any dispute that Thirukkural, a Holy book like the Bible and Quran, has been accepted to be universally applicable to every day life to every sphere and has been translated in more than 90 languages. It has been considered as the gem of moral philosophies covering all branches of life. It is also known as truthful utterances.

The petitioner had submitted that Thirukkural had become a mandatory subject in the school curriculum and has been reaching every nook and corner of the world by translation. Being unable to read, recite, understand and enjoy the treasure novel thus violated the fundamental rights enshrined in Article 21A of the Constitution and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act. It was also submitted that it was the duty of the Government and the Central Institute of Classical Tamil and Tamil University and the World Tamil Research Institute to promote and disseminate Thirukkural.

The respondent authorities informed the court that the Indian Association for the Blind in Chennai and Madurai had published "Thirukkural" in Braille VErsion both in Tamil and English which was available at a concessional rate of Rs. 1960 and that the National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities (Divyangjan) Regional Centre was distributing the book at free of cost to visually impaired persons subject to availability.

The Director of Tamil Development Department also informed the court that the Central Institute of Classical Tamil was going to distribute 45 Sanga Ilakkiya Noolgal including the Thirukkural in braille format to the Visually Challenged persons free of cost and that works for the same would be completed by December 2022. It was submitted that visually challenged persons could send in a copy of their ID card along with details to the Director, and the books will be delivered to their address free of cost.

Taking the above communications, the court opined that the prayer sought by the petitioner was already meted out. The court gave liberty to the petitioner to approach the Central Institute of Classical Tamil for receiving the braille version of the texts as per the procedure.

Case Title: P Ramkumar v State and others

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 439

Case No: W.P.(MD) No.5769 of 2018

Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr.R.Alagumani

Counsel for the Respondents: Mr.P.Thilak Kumar, Government Pleader (R1 to R3)

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