By Sheshu Babu*
There are few visually impaired persons working in prestigious offices. The appointment of blind or visually impaired to courts is rare. One such recent example is the 31 – year old Brahmananda Sharma who lost his vision when he was 22 (“Rajasthan – Meet the first visually impaired judge #disability #Goodnews”, May16, 2018 kracktivist.org). He hails from Bhilwara (Rajastan) and studied in government school and cleared Rajasthan Judicial Services Exam in 2013 at first attempt. A civil judge and judicial magistrate, Sharma lost sight due to glaucoma. He did not give up his ambition though a coaching centre refused him. His family and his wife (a government teacher) recorded the books which he listened to frequently.
The issue of visually impaired breaking into judiciary is not new. In 2009, T.Chakkaravarthy created a history by probably becoming the first judicial officer in Tamil Nadu. He struggled hard for 17 years to realize his dream.
Sharma says that he can recognise hundreds of advocates coming to court by their foot -steps. “…I do justice weighing the facts and merits of a case, just as it should be” , a confident Sharma says (Kshitiz Gaur, April 15,2018, timesofindia.indiatimes.com). Sharma uses e-speak device connected to a computer.
He is not alone. In neighboring Pakistan, too, Yousaf Saleem, the visually impaired lawyer, is set to become the first blind judge of Pakistan.( May 13,2018, Geo news). Despite being a topper, he was denied the position but due to recommendation and considering again after the chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar reported ‘The News’. Saleem, who hails from Lahore, is blind by birth and his sister Saima is the first blind civil service officer who served UN missions in Geneva and New York. (pakistantoday.com) . He is a gold medalist from Punjab University.
There are many others who, despite being visually handicapped, served judiciary in other countries. Justice Zakeria Mohammed Zak Yacoob became the first blind judge of Constitutional court of South Africa. He was at the office from 1998-2013 .In India, Sudhan Gupta was made advocate general in 1986-87 though he was visually impaired in west Bengal.( India). Richard Conway Casey was judge of US District court for the southern district of New York and many others.
The entry of visually handicapped into the judicial system must be welcomed. They should be given all possible facilities for delivering laudable verdicts. Other blind and visually disabled should take these persons as role models and struggle to attain greater heights in their education. The case of the family of Saleem is an example of how every one can struggle against all odds to achieve their goals. Yousaf has four sisters of whom two are blind. While one of his sister is first blind person to clear CSS in 2007 ,his other sister is a teacher in Lahore in a university and doing her PhD (thenews.com.pk). Such examples must stir up disillusioned persons and make them courageous. As Yousaf said in an interview to Gulf News, “If you don’ t believe in your dreams, no one will”.
*Writer from anywhere and everywhere. Whenever he ponders on the question ‘ who am I?’ , he gets some response from a lyric by Bhupen Hazarika ‘Ami ek jajabor’:
I am a gypsy
The earth has called me her own
And I have forgotten my home