Accommodation needed for inclusive education: SC

Right to inclusive education can't be realised without reasonable accommodation: SC

The court stressed that the right to education meant inclusive education which can be realised through the provision of reasonable accommodation

Representative Image. Credit: iStock Photo

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it is the duty of the authorities to make suitable modifications in the curriculum and examination system to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

"This duty can be fulfilled by providing extra time for the completion of examination papers and/or the facility of a scribe. The provision of inclusive education is not limited to children with disabilities but extends to adults with disabilities," a bench presided over by Justice D Y Chandrachud said.

The court stressed that the right to education meant inclusive education which can be realised through the provision of reasonable accommodation.

Acting on a petition filed by Avni Prakash, the court directed the National Testing Agency to consider taking "steps to rectify the injustice" done to her within a period of one week. 

It noted that she was wrongfully deprived of compensatory time of one hour while appearing for the NEET-UG without any fault of her own, despite her entitlements as a person with disability (PwD) and a person with benchmark disability (PwBD). 

The court directed the NTA authorities to ensure provisions that are made at the NEET in terms of the rights and entitlements available under the Rights of Persons with Disability  (RPwD) Act 2016 are clarified in its bulletin by removing ambiguity.

"The appellant has suffered injustice by a wrongful denial of relaxations and a lack of remedy by this court would cause irretrievable injustice to the life of the student. The RwPD Act 2016 prescribing beneficial provisions for persons with specified disabilities would have no meaning unless it is scrupulously enforced," the bench said.

The court rejected a contention by the NTA that 15 lakh candidates appeared in the examination and the result already declared can't be altered.

"The NTA is governed by the rule of law and by the constitutional requirement of observing fairness. Behind the abstract number of ‘15 lakh students’ lie human lives that can be altered due to the inadvertent, yet significant errors of it," the court said.

It noted that the authorities were ignorant about the facilities to which such a candidate was entitled. "There was an evident confusion between the authorities working for the NTA and exam centres...(they should be) sensitised and trained, on a regular basis, to deal with requirements of reasonable accommodation raised by PwDs," the court said.

The petitioner has secured an All India Rank of 1721 out of 2684 candidates qualified in the PwD category. In relation to the State of Maharashtra, she has secured rank 249 out of 390 candidates in the PwD category.

The top court also said that the rights and entitlements which are conferred upon PwD cannot be constricted by adopting the definition of benchmark disability as a condition precedent or as a condition of eligibility for availing of the rights. 

"Undoubtedly, to seek admission to an institution of higher education under the 5 % quota, the candidate must fulfil the description of a PwBD. But equally, where the statute has conferred rights and entitlements on PwD, which is wider in its canvass than a benchmark disability, such rights cannot be abrogated or diluted by reading into them the notion of benchmark disability," the bench added.

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