Sign language interpreters engaged in Delhi HC to enable hearing-impaired persons to understand proceedings

08:06 PM Sep 26, 2023 | PTI |

In a step aimed at enhancing access to justice to the differently-abled, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday engaged sign language interpreters to enable hearing-impaired persons to understand the court proceedings.


For the first time, two sign-language interpreters stood at the podium near the judge and translated the proceedings through their actions to the hearing-impaired persons who were present in the court to attend a case relating to making films accessible to those suffering from visual or hearing impairments.

Justice Prathiba M Singh, who was holding the court, directed that sign language interpreters shall continue to be engaged in future for all the hearings of this matter.

The court also directed that the interpreters’ fees be directly deposited in their respective bank accounts.

Advocate Rahul Bajaj, who himself is visually impaired and represents the petitioners in the case, submitted that three other similarly-placed hearing-impaired persons joined the proceedings Tuesday to understand the manner in which hearing- impaired persons can also attend the court hearings.


He said some hearing-impaired persons also joined the proceedings virtually.

The court was hearing a petition by four persons suffering from visual and hearing impairments who sought directions to make Shah Rukh Khan-starrer ”Pathaan”, accessible to them. Deepika Padukone and John Abraham are also in the movie.

The four petitioners — a law student, two lawyers and a disability rights activist — have contended that under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (PWD Act), the government has to take measures to ensure access to content to those suffering from disabilities. While three of them are visually impaired, the fourth one is hearing impaired.

In April, Justice Singh had said Bajaj may provide the details of the sign language interpreters whose services can be engaged for the hearing on the next date.

The Registrar General may on the administrative side consider if the interpreter could be arranged for the next date of hearing in this matter, the court had said.

During the day’s hearing, the counsel for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting submitted a status report which stated that various steps were taken in the matter.

The court was informed that stakeholder consultation meetings were held in June and July in Mumbai and various practical concerns were raised in the meetings by the Film Federation of India and South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce.

The ministry submitted that stakeholder consultations are going on in the right earnest and that steps will be taken to resolve the issue in hand.

Justice Singh observed that the concerns raised by the stakeholders can be easily addressed if some flexibility is shown by the ministry.

”The industry would have to show more sensitivity towards the persons with disabilities inasmuch as the provisions of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act have to be borne in mind,” the court said.

The court said that under Section 42 of the Act, making available tools to provide access to information and communication technology is mandatory in law and that not providing the same constitutes offences under the enactment.

”The law having been brought into force almost 6 to 7 years ago, the fact that persons with disabilities are unable to enjoy even basic forms of entertainment such as films is a cause of concern,” it said.

The court impleaded the Film Federation of India, South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce and Central Board of Film Certification as party respondents in the matter and said if desired, they may file their response in the case.

The court also directed the ministry to give publicity to the order on its website so that any stakeholders who wish to join the stakeholder consultations can do so and listed the matter for further hearing on November 2.

It also asked the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to remain present in court on the next date.

The high court had in April directed the Centre to hold a consultation with stakeholders, including producers, broadcasters and disability rights organisations, and submit a report on making films accessible to those suffering from visual or hearing impairments.

It had observed there was ”no manner of doubt” that the framework on making contents accessible to persons with disabilities ought to be implemented an ”urgent basis” and ”across the board”.

In January, the court had directed Yash Raj Films to provide Hindi subtitles and closed captions as well as audio description for the OTT release of the film for the benefit of those suffering from visual and hearing impairments.

The court had stated the ministry was free to frame guidelines on the issue and may place them before it.

It had said the stakeholders for consultation would include the film producers, OTT platforms, TV broadcasters, disabled persons organisations, NBDA and others that the ministry may deem appropriate.

The petitioners had earlier told the court that technology, including applications, was available to enable persons with visual and hearing impairment to enjoy a film in theatres if the producer shares the audio of the movie with them.


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