The Statesman (India).
Tuesday, May 02, 2006.
A visually impaired person has moved Gauhati High Court asking whether banks can put restrictions on blind customers depriving them of the right to operate their accounts like any other ''normal'' persons or not.
Faced with such restriction from his bank, Mr Prasanna Kumar Pincha, a visually impaired person and Northeast Regional Manager of Action Aid India, has dragged the IDBI Bank authorities, the Reserve Bank of India, the Indian Banks Association and he Union of India to the court last week. He has already elicited a prompt response from Gauhati High Court, which has issued an interim order that Mr Pincha be allowed to open a savings bank account and also be allowed to ''normal/usual'' operation of the account.
He was recently refused the facility of opening an account in the Guwahati branch of IDBI Bank citing his blindness. But as Mr Pincha insisted, the bank later agreed, but demanded a written undertaking which other people are not required to. Mr Pincha said: "The bank did this in gross misinterpretation of an order of 5 September, 2005 issued by the deputy commissioner (Disabilities), Government of India and had tried to unilaterally impose arbitrary and unfair conditions leaving me to wonder if I was a lesser citizen of India because of my blindness. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995 doesn't not provide for any restriction on blind or other physically challenged persons in opening bank accounts."
The senior Action Aid official who filed a writ petition in Gauhati High Court on 28 April, said the order of the deputy commissioner (Disabilities), Government of India had, among other things, restricted the enjoyment of cheque facility by visually impaired people and limited it only to issue of crossed cheques and that too for certain specified purposes like payment of phone or electricity bills.
"Not only that the deputy commissioner (disabilities) also considered that all blind people invariably put only thumb impressions and that they are incapable of putting signatures," the Mr Pincha said. Admitted the petition, Mr Justice Ranjan Gogoi of Gauhati High Court passed an interim order directing the IDBI Bank to allow Mr Pincha to open a savings bank account with cheque book facility ''as in the case of persons with no visual impairment or any other disability''.
In the next hearing the Court will take up the issue of examining the legality of the order issued by deputy commissioner (disabilities), Government of India on 5 September 2005, disallowing disabled persons the facility of operating a savings bank account like any other normal person.
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