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Hearing impaired applicants to be considered for driving licenses after SC direction

Date : 05/01/2017

Amit Ashok Tribhuvan vs Regional Transport Officer

The Petitioner is a person with 100% hearing impairment. The PIL sought to challenge the order passed by the Regional Transport Officer, Pune, which denied the Petitioner No.1 a learner’s license to drive motorcycles and light motor vehicles citing Section 8, Clause 4 of the Central Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 as the source of power he exercised to deny the said license. Section 8, Clause 4 of the Central Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 reads thus-

"If, from the application or from the medical certificate referred to in sub-section (3), it appears that the applicant is suffering from any disease or disability which is likely to cause the driving by him of a motor vehicle of the class he would be authorized by the learner’s license applied for to drive to be a source of danger to the public or to the passengers, the license authority shall refuse to issue the learner’s license."

The said order was challenged on the ground, inter-alia, that it frustrates Section 32 and 33 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, particularly when the job of 'Driver (Auto Motor Cycle, Rickshaw)’ at item no. 87 of notification [Extraordinary, PART I – Section 1] (Regd. No. D.L.33004/99) dated 15th March, 2007, was identified as being suitable for persons with hearing disabilities.

After the PIL was filed, a meeting under the Chairmanship of Joint Secretary (Transport) was held on 6th May, 2016 to discuss the issue of grant of driving licenses for the hearing impaired. It was decided to seek the views of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.

AIIMS opined that-"Driving is primarily a visual function with little inputs from hearing. Many developed countries give hearing-impaired people the privilege of being able to drive. If a person is rehabilitated with hearing amplification (hearing aid or cochlear implant) and can hear reasonably with the same then there seems little reason to deprive him or her of a driving license. For patients not fully rehabilitated some countries do grant the privilege to drive. This is important with regard to opportunities we wish to grant to the disabled. It is well recognized that the loss of hearing does not per-se impact the ability to drive. As an added precaution, should be asked to display on the car a sign indicating the driver is hearing impaired. All such applicants should take a stringent driving test under the actual road condition circumstances as is the case for normal individuals."

Citing the present PIL and the observations made by AIIMS, the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways issued a direction to the Principal Secretaries and Transport Secretaries of all states to consider the applications made by hearing impaired applicants.

The Petition was disposed of by an order dated 5th January, 2017 in terms of the aforementioned communication dated 28th October, 2016 issued by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, while directing the concerned authorities to reconsider the application of for driving license of the Petitioner uninfluenced by the earlier rejection order and taking into consideration the said communication.

Read the order here.

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