Disability Status Disclosure for Advocate

Supreme Court mandates disability status disclosure during enrolment of the Advocates in State Bar Councils

Facts: On November 6, 2023, the Supreme Court had issued notice in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) Fateh Mohit Whig v. Union Of India And Ors. W.P.(C) No. 1218/2023 PIL-W, urging the Bar Council of India (BCI) and State Bar Councils nationwide to collect comprehensive data on candidates who were Persons with Disabilities (PwD), specifically regarding their disabilities.

Contention of the Petitioner: The Petitioner, a lawyer, and a person with a disability, had previously submitted a detailed representation to the Bar Council of India, emphasizing the significance of collecting data in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act of 2016. Allegedly, the Bar Council of India did not respond to this representation. The petitioner underscored that, upon scrutinizing enrolment forms from various State Bar Councils, it was revealed that, out of the 22 State Bar Councils, only the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry were collecting and recording data on the disability status of applicants. Additionally, they required the submission of a disability certificate along with the enrolment form. Therefore, this PIL aimed to standardize such data collection practices across all State Bar Councils in India.

Contention of the Respondent: The government responded stating that the plea underscored the importance of the RPWD Act, and the duties need to be outlined for relevant bodies including the special courts, national funds, and state funds for Persons with Disabilities. It stressed that there definitely is a need to gather data about lawyers with disabilities to ensure their equal treatment and access to benefits as outlined in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Court Observation: The PIL argued that collecting specific data on lawyers with disabilities was crucial for increased representation, addressing unique needs, providing necessary support, and advocating for their rights. The data, according to the plea, also played a key role in shaping policies, dispelling stereotypes, and promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity within the legal profession.

Court’s Decision: The Supreme Court issued notice in the PIL, signalling the initiation of legal proceedings.

Impact of this Decision: If the plea is successful, it could  standardize data collection practices on the disability status of applicants across all State Bar Councils in India. This, in turn, can have had far-reaching implications for promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity within the legal profession, ensuring equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities pursuing legal careers.

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