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Introduction to the paper and background:

Equality is a basic and legitimate expectation of every individual. However, no two people start their life at the same point. Human life, qualities, capabilities and experiences differ across the spectrum making the guarantee of equality is highly complicated promise to keep. Persons with disability are at the receiving end of many forms of direct and indirect discrimination. The direct discrimination is easier to remedy as it is more pronounced and noticeable. However, the indirect discrimination stems from the lack of compatibility of the existing systems and structures with the specific conditions and needs of persons with disability. This form of discrimination is covert and disguised as a modern and protectionist face of the society.

The desire to lay a protective ground for the class of people who are perceived to be in need of care creates stereotypes which are legitimately perpetuated over time. For instance, the need to appoint guardians for persons with mental deficiencies and the continued presence of the guardian in the life of the ward throughout their adulthood due to the perceived inability to make rational decisions affecting the ward’s life, creates a presumption that such persons are pathologically incapable of making decisions for themselves. As time passes, the same stereotypes become barriers to the accessibility for the persons it was meant to protect.

The background of this research piece is the systemic and structural denial of access to a set of opportunities to persons with disability. This denial is based on a multitude of presumptions such as a presumption of inability to exercise discretion and requisite skill involved in the trade. At this juncture, it is pertinent to mention the famous lines of Ms. Eleanor Roosevelt,

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

The backdrop of this piece is going to be the constant tussle between formal equality and the shortcomings of formal equality which require measures of substantive equality. In order to proceed on the practicality of these concepts, I will start by laying the conceptual foundation of these principles.


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Research Team Members

Sharanya Shivaraman

Sharanya is a BA. LL.B graduate from the ILS Law College in Pune, currently working in the dispute resolution practice with AK Law Chambers in Bangalore.

During her five years in law school, I was involved in mooting, debating and organizing conferences and seminars on upcoming areas of law. My significant involvements include, a member of the editorial board of ‘Public Law Bulletin’, a monthly publication undertaken by the Centre for Public Law in ILS Law College.

According to me the purpose of “laws” is fulfilled when….. It is effectively implemented and enforced. There is a two-fold process to make any legislation successful. Firstly, the machinery which the law empowers to administer and implement the law as envisaged by its object must function effectively. And secondly, there must be an efficacious way to enforce the law by the subjects of the law before competent authorities. This may be carried out through the enforcement of the remedies which the law accounts for. When there is no gap in these two stages of implementation of the law, I believe the purpose of the law is fulfilled.

What inspires me to work on issues for the differently abled?….. Research in laws for persons with disability interests me because it helps in the understanding of how the law views disability. Transformative equality is an idea inspired me and the reading of laws and their impact on the community of persons with disability provides insight into the process of law making which in the future might create a level playing field for all persons irrespective of their ability or disability.

If there’s a law I could create and bring into effect, which would it be?…. I would bring into effect a law which mandates that schools to provide for a compulsory sensitisation program which will empower the students to empathise with situations and circumstances that they are unaware of. The program may range from teaching about religious, ethnic tolerance to importance of exercising franchise, to awareness about affirmative consent and sexual harassment. I believe that awareness of such situations will make the young students more responsible in forming opinion and contributing to society.


Naveena Pradeep

She is graduate of the ILS Law College, Pune with the B.A, LL.B Degree. Her passion for social work and empowerment of people in all spheres of life urged her to choose a career in law. She has also worked with IDIA (Increasing Diversity By Increasing Access) as the Team Leader of Pune Chapter in her third year of law school.  Also, her work with Centre for Public Law Cell in the college and internship under Hon’ble Justice Kurian Joseph in the Supreme Court brought forth her passion for policy making and research. She has a consistent track record in her academic endeavors from high school to college. She is also a voracious reader with special interest in history and politics.