Report on Sub-Group Meeting on Authorities

The first agenda of the sub group meeting was to clearly identify the purpose of the Act, based on which the authorities could be adequately structured. The purpose clause of the UNCRPD was taken as the starting point for spelling out the purposes of the Act. It was determined that the overarching purpose of the Act was to promote, protect and ensure the full rights of persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others. This promotion, protection and guaranteeing would need to be done in relation to all rights guaranteed in the Act such as the rights of education, employment, social security, or accessibility. The Act would need to both provide for non-discrimination and economic empowerment of persons with disabilities. It was also recognized that there was need to establish suitable professional services and support systems for the realization of the rights recognized in the UNCRPD and the new Act.

The next item on the agenda was to evaluate the existing authorities under PWDA, in order to determine the extent to which these authorities could be used to achieve the purposes outlined for the new Act. To this end the work of the Central and State Co-ordination Committees and the CCPD and SCPD were discussed.

In view of the fact that the new Act like the present PWDA would recognize certain special entitlements like scholarships; pensions and job reservations for persons with disabilities the sub-group needed to consider the question of a certification authority. There is at present no centralized authority which issues disability certificates and a certificate issued by one State is not acceptable in the other. This absence of general acceptance and uniformity in the certification process may also need to be addressed by the new Act. The sub-group did not arrive at any decision on this aspect of its work as it recognized that the constitution of the certification authority would depend upon the manner in which disability was defined in the new Act. If the new Act defined disability with a mix of medical and social criteria then the Certifying Authority would also need to be established accordingly.

The group next spelled out the kind of functions that would need to be undertaken in the new Act. The functions were outlined in order to decide the powers and responsibilities that would need to be conferred on the authority or authorities established under the Act.

After extensive discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the existing authorities it was decided that whilst the existing authorities had the strength of being accessible to persons with disabilities, they could not perform the multifarious tasks required to be performed in the new Act. Consequently the new law should establish a National Authority to raise awareness and undertake sensitization; evolve policy, assist co-ordination and monitor implementation; and undertake regulatory responsibilities. The first level adjudication of grievances could continue to remain with the CCPD and SCPD with adequate infrastructure and financial support. However if redress cannot be obtained with the intervention of the SCPD/CCPD then other procedures of redress would need to be built into the Act. The composition of the Authority and its functioning must give representation to the voice of persons with disabilities.

The Authority is thus being visualized as a hybrid between commission and a council of persons with disabilities with regulatory powers. The design of the United Kingdom Equal Opportunity Commission and the Canadian Disability Rights Commission are being examined.

The sub-group unanimously decided to recommend the establishment of a separate Ministry for Disability Affairs in order to ensure the efficient and focussed implementation of the mandate of disability rights.

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