New Delhi, March 26: The Supreme Court today directed the central government and all states and Union territories to explain the measures they have taken for the welfare of mentally challenged people across the country.
The court said it appeared that not much had been done so far, although the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, mandates governments to take adequate steps for their welfare.
"We are disposed to think that all the state governments have a definite role to see that the act is properly implemented and the persons under disability, which includes... mentally challenged persons, are taken care of as commanded by the act," a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and P.C. Pant said.
The court passed the order while dealing with a public interest petition that had complained about the pathetic living conditions in Asha Kiran, a government-run care home in Delhi for mentally challenged people.
The bench said it was "absolutely conscious" that this case had "arisen from an order" passed by Delhi High Court relating to the home. Yet, the "pathetic situation of this category of persons which have been highlighted before us in other states cannot be ignored", it said.
"On the contrary," the bench added, "we are obliged to think, occasion has arisen so that there can be a comprehensive study of the situation where this class of people are treated with dignity, respect and, as far as practicable, feel a part of the main stream of life."
The bench said it was "not oblivious of the fact" that in every case, it may not be possible "but there has to be an attempt to identify the possibility".
"We have been apprised at the Bar that the said effort has not been made and, if made, that is not adequate enough to meet the real challenge."
The bench noted that under Section 25 of the act, the government concerned and local authorities are duty-bound to take certain steps to prevent occurrence of disabilities and prepare a comprehensive education scheme providing for transport facilities and supply of books, besides financial incentives for parents or guardians.
"In view of the aforesaid, we direct the impleadment of the Union of India (and) all the states and Union territories. This court hopes and trusts that the Union of India and all the states and Union territories shall respond without taking recourse to any kind of subterfuge and none should take (an) adversarial position for the present cause has its own sacrosanctity," Justice Misra said in his order while fixing July 8 for the next hearing.