New Delhi: February 15, 2011
In a landmark judgement which will benefit millions of deaf people in the country, the Delhi High Court has opened the doors for deaf people to take a driving test, and if they pass, to get a driving licence for the first time in India. Prior to this the Motor Vehicles Act and Rules automatically disqualify a deaf person from obtaining a licence on the presumption that deaf persons would be a danger to the public.
A public interest petition was filed in the Delhi High Court by the National Association of the Deaf submitting that there is no evidence anywhere in the world to show that deaf persons would be, per se, a danger to the public. On the contrary, some studies have shown that they are more careful drivers. In most countries, in the whole of Europe and America and elsewhere deaf people are permitted to drive after taking a test and their vehicles are required to be fitted with extra large side view mirrors and with a sign at the back of the vehicle indicating that the driver was deaf and light signals only are to be used.
The irony of the blanket ban in India which prevented deaf people from even doing the test lay in that India was a signatory to an international convention and accepted as valid international driving licences. Thus deaf persons from abroad, including Indians, who possessed an international driving licence could legally drive in India while deaf persons from India were not even permitted to take the test.
By allowing deaf persons to go through the test and drive if they are found capable, the High Court has, for the first time in this country, permitted deaf persons to legally drive a vehicle.