The Delhi High Court today said it would "not tolerate exclusion" of any section of society from accessing public facilities and directed the Centre, Delhi government and local bodies to be more sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities.
The Delhi High Court today said it would “not tolerate exclusion” of any section of society from accessing public facilities and directed the Centre, Delhi government and local bodies to be more sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities. The observations by a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar came during the hearing of a PIL that claimed that most public facilities in the national capital were not disabled friendly. During the hearing, Delhi Police said 22 of its new police stations are completely disabled friendly. The submission was made by Delhi government’s additional standing counsel Naushad Ahmed Khan. Not accepting the claim, the bench asked if the lock-ups in the new police stations had disabled friendly toilets for the accused.
“Does Tihar have any disabled friendly toilets,” the court also asked and told the police that its stations have to be disabled friendly not just for complainants, but also for the accused. “We cannot tolerate any exclusion on any account. No exclusion at all on the basis of caste or colour or creed or any other criteria,” the bench said and added that even juvenile homes, observation homes for the aged and women and other such establishments also need to be disabled friendly. The court termed as “unacceptable” the lack of access to public parks by the disabled and aged persons due to the narrow entry points and directed the authorities to take steps to rectify the deficiency.
The corporations were also asked to take up one or more areas in their jurisdiction as pilot projects to make them completely disabled friendly. While issuing the directions, the court noted that there was also “a complete lack of sensitisation” of government officials on issues affecting persons with disabilities. The bench said while making buildings and parks disabled friendly, it was essential for the local authorities to train their officials to be sensitive to needs of the disabled. To achieve the objective, the court ordered holding of a meeting of architectural and engineering divisions of all authorities to formulate a training module to sensitise their officials on the issues affecting disabled persons. It directed that the training module and the manner and time line in which it would implemented should be placed before the bench on the next date of hearing on March 21.
“The steps be undertaken sincerely, diligently and on a war-footing,” the bench said. It also directed the authorities to carry out a disability audit of the buildings or parks under their control and ownership to identify which of them are entirely disabled friendly. The court asked the authorities to identify the shortcomings and come with an action plan, including a time line, to rectify the deficiencies. It passed the order while noting that despite the passage of over two years since the issue of lack of disabled friendly facilities in Delhi was raised in a PIL, the authorities have not yet carried out a disability audit despite repeated court orders.
The bench, however, noted that only the Delhi Cantonment Board (DCB) has complied with its January 10 order to carry out the audit, identify the deficiencies and carry out the rectifications. The court also sought the presence of the Chief Engineer of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Additional Deputy Commissioner of south Delhi municipal corporation to be present on the next date with their respective audit report, details of rectification required and the time line for carrying out the work.
The direction was issued as both DDA and SDMC had not yet filed a status report after the court’s January 10 order. The PIL filed by 29-year-old Nipun Malhotra has sought directions to make the capital’s roads, government offices and public transport friendly for the disabled people. The government is expected to ensure non-discrimination in public transport, rail compartments, buses, vessels, aircraft and waiting rooms in such a way so as to make them comfortably accessible to the physically challenged persons, the petition has said.