Ngathingpei Khayi

You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis

A New Beginning

Destiny took his sight away but he had the courage to see a dream. Santosh Kumar Rungta is the first blind advocate in the country to be designated a senior advocate.

S.K. Rungta was born with the disease Leucoma which made him loose his eye sight when he was just one and half years old. That didn’t stop him or hinder his determination but instead he went on followed his dreams. He decided to study law instead of joining family business of cloth whole sale like his four elder brothers in Kanpur. This choice has not just given him contentment but an opportunity to help others who are like him.

Today he fights cases against the sighted lawyers in Delhi High Court as if his own life has not enough problem of his own. He takes the cases of weaker section and differently able people who can’t stand up for their own right. “I charge them a reasonable fee because I understand, I myself have struggled a lot in life,” talking about the noble cause that he has taken up. He is also the General Secretary of National Federation of Blind

“I decided to be a lawyer when I was in third standard, it was my on decision,” talking about the initial stage of his life. “My experiences in dealing with normal people in both bar and bench and also clients had been mostly very cordial. Yes, in some discourse the initial reaction was that of traditional outlook toward the blindness, therefore their assessment in my capability as advocate was little shaky. But with passage of time and performance that also has been eliminated. I think now they take me at par with the sighted people,” says the 56 year old advocate.

His patience and efforts bear fruit when recently Delhi High Court judges voted for him to be designated a Senior Advocate. “My feeling was of pride, that of vindication of my stand on the rights of the disable people. I think the judges through this decision shows positive attitude and recognized that blind also has an equal life as that of a sighted, regard to assessment of his performance.”

But according to him this is not the end but the beginning of a new journey. “I want to continue and demolish all the negativity towards blindness and disability. For that it is very essential to carry on the success path further adding new dimensions,” leans back on his chair like he is planning for next goal. To be a part of his dream his daughter is also a lawyer and works with him. He has lovely family and home in East of Kailash in Delhi. His wife is Additional Director in Lok Sabha Secretariat and a son who is doing aero space from United States.

He still remembers the day that changed his life. “I used to hear my brothers talking among themselves that they will take care of me as my father had already passed away. It really hurt me. I took decision that I will not live my life like this. It’s better to starve rather then to live on somebody’s mercy. I have always carried that baggage and it has been instrumental in me becoming independent,” he took out his glass and kept it on the table. It seems he realize that it’s going to be long conversation.

Then age of five he went to Modern School for Blind Children in Dehradun and then started his own candle making business to finance his further studies.  He did his LLB from Kanpur University and LLM from Delhi University. “The biggest challenge when I started this profession was to combat the myth about capabilities of the blind person. Another challenge was to cope up with fast growing case law because I had to depend mainly on my Braille notes and largely on my memories,” thinking of his initial stage. “I knew that clients will not have confidence in me unless I get an opening to showcase my worth,” says with a deep sigh.

“Fortunately, I got the opportunity immediately after my enrolment as a lawyer in 1982. There was a case of seven harijans in a village Siraspur in Delhi who were allotted land under a program. But they were not given possession and they lost the case up to financial commissioner, under the land law financial commissioner is the last appellant authority. Then development commissioner of Delhi Mr. S.C. Vajpayee called and told me that he wants me to handle the case. My first appearance was in Delhi High Court and I successfully handled the case. It was widely publicized and after that there was no turning back,” he adds.

This advocate has big role in making blind candidates eligible to sit for civil examination. “In 1993, I have filled a petition before the Honorable Supreme Court challenging the rule that disqualified the blind candidates to compete in civil services examination. In a recent judgment Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of Union of India. Earlier, UPSC used to call blind candidate for interview but was rejecting them. Now they are asked to fill up the post reserved for the blinds. Today we have twelve IAS blind candidates selected and out of which four has already joined the service.”

After leading the way he wants more blind people to take up this profession, “in my case I had to depend a lot on my memories. But now things are changing with the development of the technology. Everything is done in computer, you have speech output and you can also have Braille output. It’s a lot easier now.” He thinks that anybody can achieve success if one really wants to, no matter what disabilities one has. His advice to them is, “pursue your education first with all sincerity and with additional effort, try to be the best. There after take up any profession and don’t think that one will not succeed because of disability. Nor think that success will come to you out of compensation or charity. Take the realistic attitude, if you are best in your field, you are bound to succeed.”

(Published in Society Oct ’11, Page No.64)

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