“What can be more demoralising for a person, that besides being disabled, he or she is not able to board public transport easily,” the Delhi High Court said on Friday, pulling up the Delhi government over its decision to issue a request for 1,000 standard-floor buses instead of low-floor buses.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar pointed out that standard-floor buses are neither disabled-friendly, nor easily accessible for the aged and children.
“Have you (Delhi government and the authorities concerned) ever asked these (disabled) people, who do not have legs, eyes?” the bench remarked, adding that a person needs to climb two-three stairs to get inside.
“It’s painful to see that disabled are pulled up mercilessly in buses,” it said, adding that their life is even more difficult if they are poor.
“Imagine a poor disabled person who suffers a heart attack and has to take a bus. They will die,” the bench said.
It asked the counsel for the Delhi government and others: “Do they not receive equal respect like us? Are they not visible. We have to be realistic”.
It also asked the government “whether they have ever conducted a census of disabled people using public transport”.
The court was hearing a PIL by Nipun Malhotra challenging the Delhi government’s decision to procure standard-floor buses. The court underlined that the Supreme Court-mandated number for Delhi is 10,000 buses.
During the previous hearing, the bench had asked the AAP government not to go ahead with its tender to purchase standard-floor buses for the capital, saying it would lead to violation of fundamental rights of disabled persons.
Malhotra, who suffers from a locomotor disability, through his advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, informed the court that as per the Delhi Transport Corporation’s own data, low-floor buses were safer than standard-floor ones.
The petitioner submitted that the transport department had, on February 28, issued a fresh RFP for 1,000 standard-floor buses — despite the HC order.
The Centre had recently told the court, in an affidavit, that less than 10% of the over 1.3 lakh buses run by the state road transport undertakings have been found to be disabled-friendly.