The Madras High Court refused to interfere with Tamil Nadu Government’s separate pension schemes for the visually impaired, and for other persons with disabilities.
The Petitioner is an organization working for the welfare of the Differently Abled Community, which has taken initiatives to provide quality special education, healthcare and employment opportunities to the visually impaired communities in the State of Tamil Nadu.
Their case is that the second Respondent provides maintenance allowance of Rs.1500 to several Differently Abled Persons with severely affected locomotor, mentally retarded and suffering from leprosy and muscular dystrophy.
Their grievance is that the Visually Impaired Persons, who are also severely disabled, are not treated on par with the other severely disabled persons and only a sum of Rs.1000 is paid as monthly pension to the Visually Impaired Persons.
The Differently Abled Persons, who suffer from visual impairment, are put to extreme hardship because the Scheme is administered by the Social Welfare Department.
They are asked to obtain Certificates of Approval from Village Administrative Officers, Revenue Inspectors and Tahsildar to avail the benefits under this Scheme.
Whereas, the other Differently Abled Persons, whose maintenance allowance is handled by the Differently Abled Department, are not put to such hardship.
Therefore, the Petitioner seeks a direction to the State to transfer the Monthly Pension Scheme to the Differently Abled Department and also to treat them on par with other Differently Abled Persons.
Petitioner submitted that the Respondents have violated Article 14 of the Constitution of India while making discrimination between the Differently Abled Persons, who are visually impaired and other Differently Abled Persons. The visually impaired persons are equally incapacitated and suffered from disability. Most of the visually impaired persons are unskilled, illiterates and hence unemployed, who are incapable of earning a livelihood.
The petitioner stated that they ought to be treated on par with the other Differently Abled Persons, who are paid a maintenance allowance of Rs.1500 per month which has now been increased to Rs.2000 per month. The cost of living for all the persons are one and the same and the discrimination in the quantum of allowance paid to the different categories of Disabled Persons is illogical and unfounded.
The respondent contended that the Government has taken all steps to alleviate the suffering of all kinds of Differently Abled Persons. The Differently Abled Persons, who are now paid a maintenance amount of Rs.2000 are persons, who are by virtue of their disability, are incapable and ineligible for public employment or any other kind of employment. They formed a separate class and they cannot be equated with the visually impaired Differently Abled Persons, who are eligible for public employment and other types of employment.
The State has provided for several Schemes which attempts to enhance the living condition of all the Differently Abled Persons, including the visually impaired persons, which are enumerated in the Counter Affidavit filed by the third Respondent. These Schemes are aimed at providing skills, education to the visually impaired Differently Abled Persons so as to bring them on par with normal individuals and provide employment and good standard of living.
The division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice M. Durai Swamy and Justice Sunder Mohan stated that the Differently Abled Visually Impaired Persons cannot be equated with Differently Abled Persons who are ineligible to get any employment on account of the sickness and infirmity suffered by them. The basis adopted by the Respondents to treat them differently cannot be faulted.
“Certain persons who are visually impaired are also ineligible for employment on account of other sickness, infirmity and old age, the Respondents may consider the request of those persons to treat them on par with other Differently Abled Persons who are getting the monthly maintenance allowance, on merits and in accordance with law,’ the court said.
Case title: Nethrodaya v/s The State of Tamil Nadu and Ors
Citation: W.P.No.11065 of 2018 and W.M.P.12971 of 2018