This Indo-Irish policy encounter, the first of its kind in the world, was organised by NALSAR and the National University of Ireland (Galway) Centre on Disability Law & Policy with the support of the Open Society Foundation. It sought to bring together key players and figures in the Indian and Irish legal and political systems to reflect together on the legacy of our past (especially the shared commitment to human autonomy), to share perspectives on the political process of reform toward a more support-oriented legal capacity regime, to share perspectives of those charged with drafting modern legislation and on the hopes and expectations of civil society in the process.
The format was somewhat unusual—not to say experimental. It was hoped that by bringing different strands into contact from both jurisdictions (Parliament, Executive, Judiciary, Civil Society) that interesting commonalities and shared problematics would be revealed.
The Irish delegation consisted of Dr. Gerard Quinn, Dr.Eilionoir Flynn, Ms. Anna Arstein-Kerslake, Ms.Elanor Rodgers, Mr.David Stanton (Chair of the Justice Committee in Irish Parliament), Ms. Elizabeth Kamundia and Prof. Gabor Gombos from Hungary. The Indian delegation saw a strong turnout, with vibrant representation from civil society organisations across disabilities. Mr.Madhu Goud Yaskhi, MP (Lok Sabha) and Dr.Sudha Kaul, Former Chairperson of the Former Law Reform Committee, Kolkata represented the legislative wing; Justice Dipak Misra, Supreme Court of India and Justice Rajeev Shakdher, Delhi High Court came in from the judiciary and the government was represented by Ms.Poonam Natrajan, Chairperson, National Trust of India and Dr.Sai Ramesh, National Institute for Mentally Handicapped.
Interactions amongst Parliamentarians from both countries were especially fruitful, with Mr. Stanton indicating a desire to open up another public hearing to hear what amendments the public would like to see in the Irish Bill. The participative process followed by India in drafting its 2011 Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill drew much praise; a recognition that strengthened the University’s stance against an undemocratically drafted and non-CRPD compliant 2014 draft that the government sought to pass as a politically expedient measure soon after this conference.
NALSAR’s interventions against the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, on grounds of having laid to waste a unique and path-breaking legislative process, can be accessed here.