Saturday, December 7, 2013

An Open letter to Chief Justice of India requesting Supreme Court to intervene and allow disabled voters to vote again in Delhi Elections

An Open letter to Hon’able Chief Justice of India requesting Supreme Court to intervene and allow disabled voters to vote again in Delhi Elections
Dear Sir,

I wish to write to you on an issue of national importance. The recently concluded Delhi Elections prevented a sizeable number of voters with disability to vote. This was publicized as the most high-tech polls ever but for disabled voters, it was like ostracizing in their own country. Live webcast notwithstanding, architectural, attitudinal and technological barriers confronted voters with disabilities while exercising their right to vote:  no Braille signs or ramps, an absence of Sign Language interpreters, no automatic door openers, narrow doorways and inaccessible voting machines.

On what basis does the capital of world’s largest democracy legally deprive an estimated 80,000 voters with disability of this fundamental civic right?  Despite Supreme Court orders, publicity towards disabled friendly polling booths was nil. On International Day of Persons with Disabilities (just a day before the elections), the issues were raised in media but false assurances were given. No efforts were made by the Election Commission to raise the awareness even on World Disability Day. Despite PMO orders, CCPD orders, NIC guidelines, the website of Election Commission of India is inaccessible to voters with visual impairments.

On the D-day itself many voters with disability could not vote. Not only this was highlighted in the media but a complaint was sent by me to the Election Commissioner which is still not acknowledged. Shivani Gupta, an access consultant and a wheelchair user is regularly nominated by the Government of India as a subject expert to advice on issues and policies relating to accessibility. The recipient of National (Role Model) Award given by the President of India (2004) could not vote because of the insensitivity.

As per a media report there are 80,000 voters with disability in India. Since the results are not yet out and there was widespread deprivation of the rights of disabled voters, I request you to take suo moto cognizance of this and as a special case, stop declaration of result till disabled voters are called again and allowed to vote. The ink marking will easily allow identifying voters with disability who could not vote. This may seem a tedious exercise but it will respect the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities.

The voters with disabilities (around 80,000 in Delhi and 4.5 crore in India); capital of India; whole of India as well as the world can get a stronger message if the highest apex body in India can uphold the rights of world’s largest minority (persons with disabilities). We take pride in being world’s largest democracy and we look up to you respect the voting rights of persons with disabilities.

With regards,
Dr Satendra Singh (disabled and proud)
6 December 2013

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