On August 24th this year a landmark order was passed by the court of the Chief Commissioner for persons with disabilities under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment New Delhi. The commission gave justice to one Ayaan Zaffar, an 11-year-old child who is visually impaired and now suffers from loco-motor disability as well. Ayaan, who is enrolled as a student in Special Education Need (SEN) department at of Delhi Public School (DPS) Srinagar was hit by a school bus in DPS Srinagar campus in June last year. Ayaan's parents and some social workers working for the rights of children in Kashmir allege that school authorities were reluctant to accept the fact that he was hit by a school bus, and secondly, the management failed to take care of his medical expenses. The court of the Chief Commissioner for persons with disabilities recommended that school authorities must take care of the expenses that were incurred on his treatment post accident. In addition to that, the commission recommended that victim should be given a full scholarship and school authorities were also directed that on no account the child should be dismissed from the school, or harassed by the respondents.
Background of the case
On the fateful day of June 19th 2020, Ayaan was hit by one of the school buses in the campus. He was taken to Ahmad's Hospital Nowgam first, where according to parents the cause of injury was not revealed. In view of the serious injury which had damaged his lower limbs, the visually impaired boy was taken to the Bones & Joints hospital Srinagar. From there he was further referred to Sher e Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in view of serious injury to his right lower limb which had damaged the nerves and veins, muscles also having been bruised severely. As Ayaan could not recover, his parents decided to take him to Kokila Behan hospital Mumbai in October 2019. As the injury was very severe, the hospital management advised the parents to take Ayaan to Tamil Nadu for a specialized treatment, but doctors in Tamil Nadu also failed to treat him, and finally in February 2020, after spending lot of money, time and energy, parents came back to Srinagar.
About the Case
Feeling dejected and demoralized Ayaan's parents approached three Srinagar based child rights activists namely Dr Chintanjeet Kour , Zaheer Jan and Muddasir Shaban. They tried to approach the DPS Srinagar authorities with the request to give compensation to the victim.
"The school management didn't even responded to our emails. We were thus forced to file a complaint before the Court of Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) in June this year and the matter was disposed of within 3 months " said Zaheer Jan Child Rights activist
While responding back to the Commission the school management said that they were providing scholarship to the kid. The case was listed several times and finally on 24th August 2020, the Commission issued a detailed order directing school management to reimburse all the money which was spent on Ayaan's treatment, plus giving him scholarship.
What the court said ?
The Disability Commission heard the case through video conferencing on several occasions. Advocate Waseem Aslam appeared on behalf of the victim along with his parents Zaffar ur Rehman and Shayesta. The court of chief commissioner observed
"The court finds merit in the contention of the complainant that the school has full responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all the students and doubly so for those who are having physical disability, in the premises of school. Under no circumstances the school can give any excuse to evade such responsibility and is accountable for any accident caused due to an external source leading to such an injury to a 100 % visually impaired student"
The court recommended reimbursement of all medical expenses incurred on the parents of Ayan Zaffar for his treatment. In addition to it full scholarship was also recommended in favour of the child until he continues to be in the school. The Court also directed that on no account the child should be dismissed from the school or harassed.
Implementation of order
After the lapse of more than 3 months the order of the Court of Disabilities Commission is yet to be implemented. In this connection activist Zaheer Jan approached the Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Simriti Irani, last month, whose office through an official communication No: CW-I-13/2/2017-CW-I(27953) Dated: 23.10.2020 directed the Director General Women and Child Development J&K Govt to intervene. In addition to it a copy was sent to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights as well. Zaheer Jan and his colleagues also approached the said commission. The child rights commission sent a communication to District Magistrate Srinagar asking him to act. The DC office Srinagar on 27.10.2020 directed the Principal DPS Srinagar to implement the orders passes by the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities. A compliance report was sought by DC office within a week's time, but till date the school management hasn't at all acted.
The Disabled people continue to be ignored by the society. Many of them live in isolation, and poverty. The children who have disabilities are the worst victims. In a place like Kashmir they face barriers that prevent them from enjoying their educational and other rights. We don't have schools for such children. As a society we seem to have become disabled to address these issues. If a reputed educational institution can't even take care of medical expenses of a child who was a victim of their negligence, and then they fails to respect the orders of a quasi-judicial authority, what can we expect from the law enforcing agencies?
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Founder & Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement