The Supreme Court in the case of Deaf Employees Welfare Association vs. Union of India decided on 10.12.2013 directed the Union of India to grant transport allowance to deaf and dumb persons on par with blind and orthopedically handicapped employees of the Central and State Governments and other establishments wherever such benefits have been extended to the blind and orthopedically handicapped employees.
The Ministry of Finance, Government of India vide its Office Memorandum (OM) dated 03.10.1997, in accordance with the recommendations of the 5th Central Pay Commission abolished the Conveyance Allowance granted vide OM dated 31.8.1978 and, instead, replaced it by transport allowance to be paid to blind and orthopedically handicapped employees at double the normal rates prescribed under the said OM dated 3.10.1997.
In the present case two associations representing the deaf and dumb filed a Writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the above mentioned OM dated 03.10.1997 issued by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India and prayed that the Central and State Governments be directed to grant transport allowance to its employees suffering from hearing impairment in equal to blind and orthopedically handicapped employees. The Court perused various provisions of the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and full participation) (“PWD”) Act, 1995 and opined that there cannot be further discrimination between a person with disability of ‘blindness’ and a person with disability of ‘hearing impairment’. Such discrimination has not been envisaged under the PWD Act. A further discrimination amongst the disabilities was considered as violation of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The Court further opined that the differentia sought to be canvassed by the Ministry of Finance has no rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act, which envisages to give equal opportunities, protection and rights to the “persons with disabilities”.