Delhi High Court. Image Source: IANS News
New Delhi, Sep 26 : The Delhi High Court introduced sign language interpreters to assist a hearing-impaired litigant who filed a petition advocating for improved accessibility for visually and hearing-impaired individuals in films.
A single- judge bench of Justice Pratibha M. Singh was dealing with a petition filed by people with disabilities including a law student, lawyers and a disability rights activist seeking a direction to YRF, OTT paltforms and the government to make arrangements as per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
It noted that pursuant to the courtâ€™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.
Furthermore, an additional sign language interpreter was present to assist three other individuals with hearing impairments who attended the hearing to gain insight into court procedures.
On April 6, the court had ordered the Central government to collaborate with stakeholders such as producers, broadcasters, and disability rights organisations, to create a report on how to make films accessible for individuals with visual or hearing impairments.
Justice Singh had also directed the Registrar General to explore the possibility of arranging a sign language interpreter for the case.
Advocate Rahul Bajaj, representing the litigant, who is visually impaired, informed the court that the other three individuals attended the hearing to better understand how hearings can be accessible to individuals with hearing impairments.
Justice Singh, in light of these developments, ordered that sign language interpreters continue to be engaged for all hearings related to the case. Additionally, the court directed the Registrar General to directly remit the interpreters’ fees to their bank accounts.
“We should have them in the panel only. If someone requires them, we should be able to provide.”
The Centreâ€™s counsel submitted a status report from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, indicating that progress had been made in accordance with the court’s previous orders. The report stated that stakeholder consultation meetings were conducted in June and July, with practical concerns raised by the Film Federation of India and the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce.
The Centre assured the court that consultations were ongoing and steps would be taken to address the issue at hand. Justice Singh further urged the film industry to demonstrate greater sensitivity to the needs of persons with disabilities, saying that the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act must be upheld. The court highlighted that under Section 42 of the Act, providing tools for information and communication technology access is legally mandatory, and failure to do so constitutes offences under Sections 89 and 90 of the Act.
The court expressed concern that, despite the law being in force for nearly 6 to 7 years, persons with disabilities are still unable to enjoy basic forms of entertainment, such as films. The case is scheduled for further hearing on November 2, with the Film Federation of India, South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, and Central Board of Film Certification added as party respondents.
The Centre was directed to publicise the court’s order on its website to facilitate the participation of stakeholders in the consultations, and the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was instructed to be present in court on the next date.