NEW DELHI: Despite being empowered by the Delhi high court to take a driving test, hearing-impaired people continue to be barred from it. HC gave a verdict last February allowing totally deaf people to take the test, though it clarified that any further privilege as a special category could not be granted.
"We are obliged to certify that if an applicant is totally deaf, he has to be called for the test if he applies for a learner's licence without the medical certificate. And if he passes the test as required under Rule 11, he shall be granted the learner's licence," says the order. It adds, "If a person belonging to the said category satisfies the necessary criteria, he shall be allowed to obtain the licence."
One and a half years have elapsed but the order has not been complied with. Though the Delhi transport department said the Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989 needed to be changed for implementation of the order, the road and highways ministry said the HC order was binding.
In the meantime, hearing-impaired people continue to face discrimination. For example, Anuj Jain, 41, was not allowed to take the test despite fulfilling all the criteria. "I applied for a driver's licence at the Surajmal Vihar RTO on November 2. I filled all the forms and submitted an ID proof, medical certificate and documents. I then sat for biometric registration, moving on to the driving test section," explained Jain in sign language, which was interpreted by his aide.
But he was in for a rude shock. "At the time of the test, my interpreter was asked to leave. When she insisted that I had hearing impairment, they rejected my application, saying I was not eligible," Jain said. Jain had produced the HC order but it was brushed aside by the officials, who said there had been no communication from the higher-ups.
Five other hearing-impaired people shared the same grievance. Zorin Singha, president of theNational Association of the Deaf, said this problem is faced by most of their members. "Every tenth hearing-impaired person has complained of the same problem," said Singha.
When TOI spoke at an RTO office in the city, the officials admitted that they did not allow deaf people to take a driving test. "We allow people with locomotive disability to take the test, provided they bring their customized vehicle, but not hearing-impaired people," said an official on condition of anonymity.
In the 2011 order, the prosecution had submitted a response by Delhi Police on queries related to safety. Delhi Police cited a court order which states "due to lack of auditory distraction the deaf have far better focus and concentration needed to drive the vehicle".
Yet, when TOI contacted the Delhi transport department, officials said implementation of the order would require a change in legislation. "The Delhi Motor Vehicles Act is based on the Central Motor Vehicle Rules. Unless there is a change in that, the DMV Act remains the same," said a spokesperson of the transport department.
However, a senior Union transport ministry official said, "The provision in the Central Motor Vehicle Rules does not prohibit anyone with disability from taking a driving test. If they are then found to be unfit, they may be refused a licence."
(From Times of India, New Delhi on 24th November, 2012)