Blind man's poll nomination rejected, EC's help sought

New Delhi: In a case of discrimination against the differently abled, a visually impaired man's nomination for Odisha Panchayat polls was rejected as he had put his thumb impression instead of signature on the papers, prompting the Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities to seek the intervention of the Election Commission.

Visually impaired Golak Gauda was not even allowed to file nomination papers due to his disability, prompting the Chief Commissioner to intervene.

Gauda submitted his papers, but his nomination was rejected on the grounds that he had put his thumb impression instead of signing the document.

When the incident was brought to the notice of Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities P K Pincha, he approached the EC seeking its intervention so that no persons with visual impairment or other disabilities are denied their right to contest polls.

On Pincha's directions, Deputy Chief Commissioner T D Dhariyal wrote a letter to Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi seeking to instruct election officers not to reject nominations of the disabled.

Gauda had submitted his nomination for the Panchayat election last month after the intervention of the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities but was rejected on the ground of his visual impairment, Dhariyal said.

"The BDO-cum-Election Officer of Sanakhemundi block is reported to have informed the State Commissioner that 'reading and writing in Odia' is one of the conditions to contest in the elections.

"It is stated that since persons with visual impairment read and write in Braille or with the help of a screen reading software and devices like scanner, rejection of the nomination of a person with blindness on the ground that she/he has put thumb impression on the nomination paper prima-facie amounts to denying her/his the right to contest election without valid reason," Dhariyal wrote in his letter.

He also asked the Chief Election Commissioner to take appropriate action to undo the deprivation of the right to contest the elections in respect of Gouda.