Deaf Sports Persons and Para Sports Persons Have to be Treated Equally: Delhi High Court

In an order dated January 19, 2023, the Delhi High Court observed that deaf and para-sports persons must be treated equally. Considering that the present case involves matters of government policy, the court directed the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to decide on the reliefs claimed by the petitioners within three months.

Certain sports persons with hearing and speaking disabilities filed four writ petitions before the Delhi High Court seeking a direction that deaf sports persons be treated equally vis-à-vis other para-athletes. It was urged that deaf sports persons be accorded post-retirement benefits available to Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Further, the petitioners referred to the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), which was instituted to assist the country’s top athletes with the potential to succeed in the Olympic games and argued that the scheme should be made applicable to deaf sportspersons as well.

Though the court expressly stated that deaf sports persons should not be discriminated against and must be treated equally on par with other para-athletes, it was asserted that judicial review could not be invoked in matters of government policy, and any court interference in this regard is unwarranted.

Relying on case law on judicial review, the Single Judge Bench of Justice Pratibha M Singh stated that “announcing policies and schemes is again to be done by the Government, and the Court cannot direct a specific benefit”.

In conclusion, the court directed the Sports Ministry to consider the issues raised by the petitioners and take an appropriate decision within three months from the date of the order.