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Persons with disabilities act (April, 1999)
In August 1998, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment constituted a Committee to suggest amendments to the Persons with Disabilities Act. The Committee, comprising of the Chairperson Dr. Amita Dhanda and members J. P. Gadkari, Aloka Guha, Dr. D. K. Menon, R. Ramachandran, S. K. Rungta, Surrendar Saini, and Merry Barua, was directed to review provisions of the PD Act and suggest suitable amendments in the existing provision, or new provisions, in order to cover the requirements of the disabilities sector, as well as any other issue considered appropriate. In this task the Committee was asked to consult with State governments, Union Territories Administrations as well as major non–governmental agencies before finalizing the recommendations.

In order to make the effort as consultative and participative as possible, a flexible time frame, giving the committee time to complete its task at the earliest without compromising on the quality of the work, was decided on. Members of the committee wrote to their contacts and associates inviting responses on various provisions of the act. The Committee drafted 71 pointed questions on the key areas covered by the statute. The questions were shared with other experts for further inputs and also forwarded to the Ministry to obtain feedback from Central Ministries/Departments, State Governments and Union Territories. Based on all these inputs the Drafting Committee consisting of Dr. Amita Dhanda and Mr. Santosh K. Rungta prepared an interim report that was submitted to to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

The draft proposals were also sent to legal, financial, and medical experts, to seek feedback on specific sections of the Act. Four regional consultations were held on the draft proposals with the endeavor to make the consultations as disability and region representative as possible. Based on the inputs from all these diverse sources the drafting Committee worked out a report, which was finalized by the committee at its ultimate meeting on 3 and 4 of March.

While the final report of the Amendments Committee is now with the Ministry, all those who participated in the Consultation can access copies of the report, by writing to Action for Autism member Merry Barua or any other member of the Amendments Committee.

Income tax relief U/S 80DD for parents/guardians of persons with disabilities
Ashwani Chaswal
Till the financial year 1997–98, deduction of INR 15,000 was allowed U/S 80DD and deduction to the extent of INR 20,000 was allowed U/S 80 DDA. Vide Finance Act 1998, section 80DD was substituted for both sections 80DD and 80DDA and deduction was specified up to a ‘Limit’ of INR 40,000.

However, because of the language of the Act and the word ‘Limit’ appearing in it, the various offices were asking for actual vouchers/bills for medical expenses incurred towards the handicapped dependant, for allowing Tax deduction at source to the Parent/Guardians.

Realizing the difficulties involved in producing such vouchers/bills, a group of parents met top Govt. officials like Mr. D. K. Manvalan (Secy. Ministry of Welfare), Mr. Ravi Kant (chairman central board of direct taxes) and Mr. G. C. Srivastava (H. Secy. ministry of finance) and explained the issue in details.

Thanks to the concerned officials that a prompt action has been taken and the issue has been resolved once & for all. Vide circular No.775 dated 26 March 1999 from Ministry of Finance, it has been clarified that for availing Income Tax deduction U/S 80DD, the employees are required only to furnish a medical certificate from a Government Hospital certifying the disability of the dependent and a self declaration certifying the expenditure incurred on account of medical treatment (including nursing), training and rehabilitation of the handicapped dependant. Actual receipts shall be required only in case the employee seeks deduction on account of deposits made in specified schemes of LIC or UTI. This shall be applicable for the financial year 1998–99 and onwards.