Feb 27, 2022

Supreme Court extends equality to witnesses: Says testimony of persons with disabilities has equal weight

The Supreme Court has said that courts should not consider the testimony of a person with a disability as weak or inferior, just because they interact with the world in a different manner.


The Court set out the following guidelines to make the criminal justice system more friendly to persons with disabilities:


  • The National Judicial Academy and State judicial academies must sensitize judges towards persons with disabilities in cases involving sexual abuse. This includes guiding judges on the legal value of the testimony of persons with disabilities, whether they are witnesses or survivors. Public prosecutors and other lawyers must also undergo similar training. The Bar Council of India can consider introducing related topics in the syllabus of law colleges.


  • The concerned authorities must appoint trained special educators and interpreters to reasonably accommodate persons with disabilities in the criminal justice system. All police stations must maintain a database of such educators, interpreters and legal aid providers for access and coordination. 


  • The National Crime Records Bureau should seriously consider maintaining data on gender-based violence specifically against persons with disabilities, so that the concerned authorities can take action to remedy the situation. 


  • The concerned authorities must regularly sensitize police officers to appropriately deal with cases of sexual violence against women with disabilities. The training should cover the entire cycle of a case involving a survivor with disability, including registration of complaints, and getting necessary medical attention and suitable legal representation. The training must emphasize the importance of interacting directly with the woman with disability, recognizing their independence and capacity to make their own decisions.


  • The concerned authorities must conduct accessible awareness-raising campaigns to inform women and girls with disabilities about their rights if they face any form of sexual abuse.