Only left is right: Why disabled drivers miss discount trip
Manash Pratim Gohain | TIMES OF INDIA |Apr 4, 2016
New Delhi: It is clearly about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, only it involves the two legs rather than the hands in the case of Dr Satendra Singh. For a month now, the teacher at the University College of Medical Sciences in the capital has been struggling with a peculiar problem, the resolution of which could help many others like him beat red tape. Singh is in the market for a car, but having a right leg that is polio-affected is not helping him much despite the central government actually offering excise duty concessions to buyers with special needs such as him. The confounding thing in his case is his right limb—the car company he has approached insists that the tax leniency is allowed only in the case of a disabled left leg.
In January, having set his eyes on the hatchback Baleno, Singh approached Maruti Suzuki's Nexa showroom, first in Noida, then at Akshardham, where he was told that the excise duty concession was not applicable to him because it was meant only for drivers with a left-leg disability. He argued that the central government guidelines on the matter did not differentiate between right and left leg disabilities. He also pointed out that he held a driving licence for the "invalid carriage" category of vehicles, which enabled him to drive his current car, a Maruti Alto.
However, a customer relationship manager of Maruti informed Singh that the company's automatic transmission vehicles "can be used by the physically disabled customers with left leg disability only". A Maruti spokesperson also said that the burden of verification and certifying the details of buyers with disabilities lay with the car manufacturer. In his case, Maruti informed Singh that it could not discount the price payable under the disability provisions.
"If you are left leg-disabled person, then for the purpose of buying an automatic transmission vehicle, you are as good as non-disabled," remonstrated Singh. Irked by a month of trying to convince the unmoved car company, Singh has now directly approached the government.
Seeking a quick resolution to his problem, Singh's letter to the secretary of the ministry of heavy industries, said that "the decision by Maruti Suzuki India Limited to exclude customers with right leg disability is discriminatory to say the least". He, therefore, requested the ministry to instruct car makers to allow people with lower limb disabilities to avail the benefits provided under the law "without any riders".
Singh pointed out that car companies, including Maruti, earlier sold cars that had been modified for use by people with orthopaedic difficulties. Such cars were termed "invalid carriages". In 2008, in the C. Paulraj vs The Secretary, Ministry of Transport and others case in Madras High Court, Justice D Hariparanthaman had noted, "If the mobility of physically challenged persons is curtailed, it would result in perpetuating inequality and the object of the Persons With Disabilities Act 1995 would be defeated." The judge, therefore, ruled that the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 did not prohibit any person, including physically challenged persons, from converting motor vehicles into "invalid carriages".
The same year, Justice P K Misra of the same court, hearing R Ramaswamy's petition against the Secretary, Ministry of Transport and others, expanded the meaning of "invalid carriage" to mean not only factory modified cars, but also those adapted for use by disabled drives at private workshops.
"No major car maker now manufactures invalid carriages in India, so people with disabilities have to get the fabrication done through local mechanics and fabricators," said Singh.
If the ministry responds favourably to Singh's petition, then it will certainly bring at least this version of a right versus left face-off to a satisfactory conclusion.
Reference: TIMES OF INDIA 4th April 2016