The Supreme Court today said it was imperative to provide proper and safe access to roads, transport, buildings and public places to differently-abled persons so that they could enjoy a meaningful life and contribute to the progress of the nation.
The top court said right to dignity, which is ensured in the constitutional set up for every citizen, applies with much more vigour in cases of persons suffering from disability and it was duty of the State and public authorities to lay down proper norms in this regard.
A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan passed a slew of directions, including that all government buildings providing any services to the public be made fully accessible to differently-abled persons by June 2019 as per provision of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.
The bench said that deadline of December this year, set by accessible India campaign (AIC), to make 20 to 50 important state government buildings in 50 cities fully accessible should be met.
On the issue of making 50 per cent of all the government buildings in the national capital and all state capitals fully accessible by December 2018, the court said though deadline for identifying such buildings was fixed as February 28 this year, only seven states have done this as per a status report of August 2017.
“Remaining states are directed to identify the buildings by February 28, 2018 and it is made clear that no further time in this behalf shall be granted. Insofar as deadline for retrofitting is concerned, the work should be completed by December 2018,” the court said in its 78-page judgement.
It also directed the states to identify 10 most important cities or towns and complete the accessibility audit of 50 per cent of government buildings at these places by February 28 next year and complete the retrofitting work by December 2019.
Regarding Central government buildings, the bench said that the work be completed by August next year.
The bench referred to the provision of the 2016 Act and said it provides for comprehensive accessibility to disabled persons in all modes of transport.
“Therefore, it becomes the duty of the union, states as well as union territories to ensure that all government buses are disabled friendly in accordance with the harmonized guidelines,” it said, while asking authorities to ensure that even the private buses become disabled friendly.
The court also directed the government to lay down a plan giving dates by which this task would be undertaken and asked it to furnish the same before it within three months.
The bench also dealt with the aspect of accessibility of disabled persons at airports, completion of accessibility audit of all the international airports in India and making them fully accessible.
It said that demand of the petitioner that the Civil Aviation Ministry should follow the template of IIT Roorkee, which had conducted access audit of Indira Gandhi International airport here, appeared to be justified and should be implemented as expeditiously as possible.
“The Union of India should thereafter conduct the accessibility and audit and upload the same on the website by June 2018,” the bench said.
The court directed the Railways authorities to make an assessment on making 50 per cent of all stations fully accessible by March 2018 so as to ascertain as to by when such facilities would be provided.
“Such a study can be undertaken and exercise be completed within a period of three months and report in that behalf shall be filed in the court, chalking out the progressive plan,” the bench said.
Regarding the issue of including disability aspect in all relevant parts of revised National Building Code, the court said it was expected from the authorities to regularly update harmonized guidelines keeping in view the provisions of the 2016 Act and technological advancement.
On the target of training additional 200 sign language interpreters by March 2018, the bench asked the government to do the needful within a reasonable time and file an affidavit within three months.
The court observed that it was the duty of the states and union territories to constitute advisory boards to effectively implement the provisions of the 2016 Act.
“Therefore, we direct these advisory boards to be constituted by all states and union territories within a period of three months from today,” the court said.
The court has listed the matter for directions after three months on receiving the reports in terms of its order.
The verdict came on a petition, filed by Rajive Raturi, seeking proper and adequate access to public places, roads and transport facilities for visually impaired persons.
The bench noted in its judgement that without providing these facilities to them, their movement gets impaired and this could be treated as infringement of their fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.