Background of the Case
A petition was filed before the Madras High Court seeking direction to restrain the State authorities from acquiring buses that do not conform to the requirements mandated by the Rights of Person with Disabilities Act 2016 and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules, 2017.
Arguments before the Court
The petitioner contended that Rule 15 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules, 2017 provides the rules for accessibility and that it states that standards pertaining to Bus Body Code for transportation system which was specified in the notification of the Government of India dated 20th September 2016 have to be followed.
The Counsel appearing for the State submitted that there were certain practical difficulties in implementing the standards mandated by the statute and the rules. According to the State, the difficulties were pertaining to resources that were required to acquire buses with disabled-friendly amenities and for creating road infrastructure that would be capable of hosting the sophisticated buses. Accordingly, the State pleaded for time for the implementation of the standards.
The Court referred to similar petitions that were filed in October 2020. In those petitions, the Madras High Court had observed that nothing fruitful had been done to address the grievances put forward by disabled persons concerning the problems they face every day.
The bench constituted by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy rejected the contentions of the State and observed that
“In view of the mandate of the statute, read with the Rules framed thereunder and the notification published in accordance therewith, there may be no room to manoeuvre and little scope for the court to delay the implementation of the policy.”
Though the State had requested time for the implementation of the policy, the Court restrained the State from further acquiring buses. The Court held that
“the State would not acquire any new bus for use thereof as part of the public transport system unless such buses meet the standards indicated in the notification of September 20, 2016.”
In an earlier petition, the Madras High Court had also directed the State Government to ensure that all public buildings were built in such a manner that it provided access to persons with disabilities.