Legal Aid: Does Disabled People Under RPWD Act, 2016 Get Access To It?


The disabled community is part and parcel of the society, but the general society neglects them and they are ostracized to a greater extent. The general address them as person with disability, this brings a negative connotation to them and instead they should be addressed as differently-abled as it brings some kind of encouragement to them. As they are vulnerable kind of community, the need for legal aid and legal assistance is mandated for such people.


Since disabled people are often excluded from society and to keep them on par with the mainstream society, the Union Government enacted various legislations pertaining to disabled people. In addition, the legislations provide several rights exclusively for disabled people. However, these legislations remains poorly implemented because the legislation did not meet the main objective of reaching the disabled community. Most of the disabled population is still unaware of the legal rights which can be availed by them. So in order to make them aware of their legal rights and to assist them in accessing proper justice, the need for legal aids are very important.


India is a nation with 21 million people with disability which represents almost 2.1% of the total population. However legal aid to these people has not been accessed properly. Legal aid is provided for disabled community covering almost all the sectors of the Government. The areas are of:

  • Employment sector – issues such as reservation to disabled persons, transfer, dismissal, suspension, pension, wages or salary concerns and other labour law or service law matters;
  • Education sector – reservation in admission, special schools and inclusive education;
  • Issues in family law – matrimonial problems, custody and guardianship of the children;
  • Property issues – matter relating to partition or encroachment of property;
  • Money issues – matters such as the recovery of debt, fraud or cheating issues; and
  • Issues pertaining to consumer laws, motor vehicle accident and other matters.

Having these considerable areas of legal aid to disabled people, but the sad part is they are not aware of these legal aids and assistance.


Disabled persons should be given special assistance while providing legal aid to them. The things to be kept in mind while providing legal aid to disabled persons are:

  • Legal services to disabled persons– The institution which intends to provide legal services or aid to disabled persons should have contact with the Social Welfare Department of the respective State Governments in order to find out the possible beneficiary schemes which are available to them and should work out based on that.
  • Consideration of fundamental rights– While providing legal aid to the disabled peoples, the main concern has to be given to the fundamental rights guaranteed to every citizen under the Indian Constitution. This is the main feature as most of the disabled population is not aware that fundamental rights are for them too, if they are aware of the same then they would have been given the equal status as the general public. Basic fundamental rights like equal treatment, non-discrimination, cruelty against them, torture and other inhumane activities are not encouraged against them.
  • Rights under the RPWD Act, 2016 – At present, the main legislation pertaining to the rights of the disabled persons is the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. Section 12 of the Act provides that the appropriate Government has to ensure the persons with disabilities can exercise the right to access of courts, tribunals or any other authority or body empowered to deal the matters whether judicial or quasi-judicial without discrimination on the basis of the disability. For this purpose, NALSA and respective State Legal Services Authorities have to make appropriate provisions regarding it.

In addition, several other rights like the right to equality, right to live with dignity, right to live in a community, right to safety and security in situations at times of risk, human emergency and natural disasters are also provided to the persons with disabilities. Also, the public documents should be made accessible to all including the disabled community. For instances, electoral roll, census report, and other likewise public documents should be made accessible to them by taking special initiatives. All these rights which are provided to them have to be made available to the disabled persons by way of legal aid to them.


The main challenges which hinder the access to legal aid to disabled persons are:

  • Persons with disabilities are often scared to engage themselves in legal aid. This is because they often think that the cost of legal aid is expensive which cannot be afforded by them as most of the disabled population lives below the poverty line. Another reason is the cost of transportation from their place of stay to the place where legal aid is provided. To tackle this, free legal aid for disabled persons should be encouraged along with legal aid clinics in almost all the districts of the states;
  • Another major challenge encountered is language issues. In most kinds of disabilities, the affected disabled person cannot understand the normal way of communication. The language spoken by the person who is providing legal aid cannot be understood by them and vice versa. It is because of this, legal aids for disabled people is not often established. These complexities can be resolved by having a sign interpreter while providing legal aid so that it benefits the disabled people; and
  • Illiteracy is another reason for providing legal aid to disabled people. Most of the disabled people are uneducated and they are unaware of the legal rights for them. Providing inclusive education for disabled people as stipulated in the RPWD Act, 2016 will be a solution to this issue.


After the enactment of RPWD Act, 2016 Union Government and various State Governments gave special concern to disabled people so as to meet the objective of the Act and the ratified United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006. For instance, in Kozhikode district of Kerala, the District Legal Service Authority and the Composite Regional Centre for Persons with Disabilities have launched a legal clinic exclusively for disabled persons in August 2017. Dr Bijlee stated that the people with disabilities would be provided with free legal aid on third Monday of every month on the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences campus and the main reason for establishing a legal clinic exclusively for them is that the disabled persons are denied of their rights and to ensure them that they got access to their rights.

Establishing a separate legal aid for disabled people is in fact a positive achievement, which will act as a founding stone. Looking at the legal aid clinic at Kerala, other State Governments will take similar initiatives to provide free legal aid clinic to disabled people which will result in the effective access of rights by the disabled community.


When the proper mechanism is provided for the disabled community then the rights of the disabled community can be achieved better. For this purpose, Union Governments and other State Governments along with the institutions or authorities who are rendering legal aid and assistance to the disabled people have been effective. Only then, the implementation of the RPWD Act, 2016 will be fulfilled.

About Authors – This article has been written by Aayush Akar and Bini. R.A. Aayush Akar is third-year law student pursuing B.A. LLB (Hons) from National Law University Odisha. Bini. R.A is a fifth-year law student of School of Excellence in law, Chennai.

Also Read – What are the Rights of an Accused in India?

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