Published: 08th July 2019
How an NIOS certificate delayed this diffabled lawyer's enrolment by two years
After facing many hurdles, Ummul Khair, who suffers from cerebral palsy, finally enrolled as a lawyer at the end of June
"Hey! Are you racing? We wouldn't be able to match your pace," a friend of Ummul Khair's screamed. Ummul stopped her wheelchair for a minute, turned her face to look at her friend, smiled and then continued to hurry down the ramp. In a minute, she'd reached the ground floor of Vidya Sagar, an NGO for the differently-abled in Chennai.
A resident there for the past 19 years, she'd enrolled as a lawyer at the Bar Council Of Tamil Nadu And Puducherry a couple of weeks back. This event was indeed historical. Wonder why? Ummul is supposedly the first differently-abled woman, who completed her schooling through National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), to enrol as a lawyer in Tamil Nadu. This doesn't happen at the snap of a finger and the road to it was rocky.
Born with cerebral palsy, Ummul had a major part of her growing up in Bengaluru. But unfortunately, in all these years, she couldn't go to school. But she knew that her life shouldn't confine to the four corners of her house. "I wanted to do something for myself and for the community apart from asking for help. I was adamant to be independent," she says. So, in 2000, she approached Vidya Sagar and relocated to Chennai, all on her own.
Upon joining Vidya Sagar, the next thing that she did was write the class X examination through the National Institute of Open Schooling. "After qualifying the class X exam, I joined a regular school where I studied till class XII. Later, I joined MOP Vaishnav College for Women, where I did my bachelor's in Sociology," she says.
Later, in 2011, she joined Dr.Ambedkar Government Law College to study law. " I always wanted to study law. There are a lot of reasons behind this. Life isn't a bed of roses for a disabled woman like me. I had a lot of barriers to cross and more stereotypes to break. To bridge those gaps, especially the legal aspects of them and to raise my voice, wanted to study law," she says. But little did she know about the hurdles that she had to face after that.
Even after graduating and passing the bar council exam, she was not allowed to enrol as a lawyer. The reason? She wrote her class X exam through NIOS. "I couldn't understand the reason," says Ummul. "This barrier has, in fact, stopped a large number of people, especially, the differently-abled from enrolling as lawyers, even after passing the bar council exam," she says.
But again, life wasn't so unkind. "Seven lawyers had filed a petition in the High Court about the same. Finally, in July 2018, we got a favourable ruling," she says. Even though all turned well for Ummul, she knows that system is far from being perfect and she isn't happy about it at all. "I am really happy about the judgement. But access to justice should be provided to everyone. It shouldn't be this difficult. On top of that, all places must be accessible and inclusive," she says.