Thursday, July 22, 2021

Madras HC to Tamil Nadu Govt. - No purchasing buses for public transport, unless they are disabled friendly

Court: Madrash High Court, India

Bench: Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy 

Case No(s): W.P. No. 5957 of 2021(Lead Case) along with WP 38224 of 2005 and WP 923 of 2007

Case Title:     Vaishnavi Jayakumar Vs. State of Tamil Nadu & two Others (Lead Case)

Date of Hearing: 22 July 2021

Case Brief 

In a push for the rights and independence of people with disabilities in their commute, the Madras high court on Thursday restrained Tamil Nadu from purchasing any new bus to its fleet in the public transport system unless such buses were disabled-friendly as prescribed by law.

The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy passed the interim injunction on a batch of pleas that have been pending before the court for years including from as far back as 2005, seeking universal use of disabled-friendly buses in public tranport fleet. 

One of the writ petitions in the batch i.e. W.P. No. 5957 of 2021 had been filed by cross disability rights advocate, Vaishnavi Jayakumar. She had challenged a Government Order (GO) issued on February 24 this year, for introduction of only 10% of low floor buses and 25% of buses fitted with lift mechanism or any other suitable mode, to provide easy access to wheelchair bound passengers, out of the total buses to be procured for Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai) Limited.

The petitioner had contended that the GO violates Section 41 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016. The legislation requires the State government to take suitable measures to provide facilities for persons with disabilities at bus stops, railway stations and airports and also access to all modes of transport by even retrofitting old modes of transport wherever it was technically feasible.

She said the GO for introducing only 10% of low floor buses and those with lift mechanism was also in violation of Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. “The GO is an arbitrary exercise of power by the State. It is not only in complete violation of the rights of persons with disabilities but also contumacious, since it violates several judicial orders,” she said.

The petitioner had sought to restrain the state from acquiring any further bus unless it conforms to the requirements of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules, 2017 and under the latter, Rule 15 in particular. Rule 15 mandates that every establishment complies with the specified standard as indicated in a notification issued by the Government of India on September 20, 2016.

Advocate General R Shunmugasundaram said the government was purchasing disabled-friendly buses in phases because the roads were in bad shape and they would damage the low-floored buses.

Advocate Rita Chandrasekar, representing Metropolitan Transport Corporation, said the low floor buses cost ₹58 lakh each as against ₹26 lakh for regular buses and hence there was a delay in purchasing such buses.

The state's submission that low-floor buses were expensive and would be damaged by bad roads was rejected. The state has been submitting excuses of certain practical difficulties, particularly in finding resources not only to acquire the more expensive buses but also to create the road infrastructure required for such sophisticated buses. It sought more time to indicate a roadmap.

Rejecting their submissions, the bench in its order said, "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 as reflected in the statute and the laws made thereunder.

The court further said in its order, "the State seeks time to indicate a road-map. However, it is necessary that the State be restrained from acquiring any further bus for the public transport system which does not conform to the specifications indicated in the notification of September 20, 2016 referred to above. In other words, the State will not acquire any new bus for use thereof as part of the public transport system unless such bus meets the standards indicated in the notification of September 20, 2016".

Read the interim order dated 22 Jul 2021, embedded below:

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Madras HC rejects the argument that victim’s evidence could not be relied upon since she was blind

Madras High Court, rejecting the argument of the petitioner that victim’s evidence could not be relied upon since she was blind, said, “The victim as a blind lacks vision, but her version had vision and hence, this court holds that the evidence of the victim is admissible in evidence.”

According to the prosecution, auto driver Anbu Selvan was hired to transport the victim to her music class. However, he kidnapped her to a secluded location and sexually harassed her besides trying to kill her if she did not cooperate.

Challenging a trial court order awarding a seven-year jail term to him, Anbu Selvan moved the high court. Justice R M T Teekka Raman, however, termed Anbu Selvan as a ‘heartless person’ who had capitalised on the helpless situation of the visually challenged person and sexually assaulted her.

He is not entitled to reduction of sentence, not even for a single day, the judge asserted. Citing circumstantial and other evidence, the judge said, “Merely because of the disability, evidence of disabled persons cannot be treated as inferior in nature.”

Anbu Selvan had also argued, “The identity of the accused was not proved in the manner known to law and since the witness (victim) is a blind, her evidence cannot be termed as eye witness if at all, can be termed only as a hearsay witness which is inadmissible in evidence.”

The trial court convicted him for offences under sections 366 (kidnapping a woman), 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 506 (ii) (Criminal intimidation) of the IPC and Section 4 (harassment of woman) of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Woman Harassment Act primarily based on the evidence of the victim woman.

Merely because a victim of sexual harassment had visual disability, her evidence against the culprit cannot become inadmissible, said the court, awarding seven-year imprisonment to an autorickshaw driver who assaulted the woman. The court then recommended the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority to grant Rs 1 lakh as compensation to the victim under the Tamil Nadu Victim Compensation Scheme.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

CAT Delhi | Akhand Pratap Singh Vs. GNCT of Delhi & Others. | OA No.243/2021 | 08 Jul 2021

Central Administrative Tribunal
Principal Bench, New Delhi
Akhand Pratap Singh vs Govt. Of Nctd on 8 July, 2021
Bench: L. Narasimha Reddy
OA No.243/2021
This the 8th day of July, 2021
(Through Video Conferencing)
Hon'ble Mr. Justice L. Narasimha Reddy, Chairman
Hon'ble Ms. Aradhana Johri, Member (A)

Akhand Pratap Singh, S/o Shri Balbir Singh, R/o Kh. No.13/10 and 13/1, H.No.13 UGF, Gali No.13, Bhagat Colony, West Sant Nagar, Burari, Delhi-110084. Aged about 38 years                                                     ... Applicant Versus 1. GNCT of Delhi Through Chief Secretary, 5th Floor, Delhi Sachivalaya, I.P.Estate, New Delhi. 2. Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board, Through Chairman, F-18, Karkardooma Institutional Area, Delhi-110092. 3. South Delhi Municipal Corporation, Through its Commissioner, Dr. S.P.M. Civic Centre, Minto Road, New Delhi-110002. 4. North Delhi Municipal Corporation, Through its Commissioner, 4th floor, Dr. S.P.M. Civic Centre, Minto Road, New Delhi-110002.                                      ... Respondents

Justice L. Narasimha Reddy:

The Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (Board), respondent no.2 herein, issued a notification in the year 2013 for selection to six posts of Assistant Law Officer, (ALO) to be appointed in the Municipal Corporations of Delhi. One of the posts was reserved in favour of Physically Handicapped Category (PH). The applicant was one of the candidates under that category. A written test comprising of Tier-I and Tier-II was held and a short list of the candidates, who cleared the same, was published on 02.11.2017. The name of the applicant figured therein. However, in the final result published on 01.06.2018, the applicant was shown at SI. No.2 in the PH category, and one Mr. Neel Mani was at SI. No.1.

2. The applicant contends that Mr. Neel Mani did not join the post on account of the fact that he was selected in CBI. It is stated that the applicant submitted a representation on 15.04.2019 with a request to consider his case for appointment against the available vacancy. Correspondences were also ensued among the applicant, NDMC, SDMC and the Board, i.e. respondent no.2. The Board refused to accede to the request of the applicant as well as the Corporations, on the OA No.243/2021 Item No.29 ground that the vacancy lapsed on 31.05.2019 in terms of Clause 11 of the advertisement. It is in this background, that the applicant filed this OA with a prayer to direct the respondents to consider his case for appointment to the post of ALO, with Post Code No. 47/2013.

3. The applicant contends that he was placed at Sl. No.2 in the selection list and once the candidate at Sl. No.1 did not join, he is entitled to be considered. It is also stated that the selection process was spread over 6 to 7 years and when he is at the verge of selection, the respondents are trying to deny him the benefit of selection.

4. The respondents filed separate counter affidavits. The Board contends that the selection process is governed by the various conditions stipulated in the notification itself, and the waiting list prepared for this purpose has elapsed on expiry of one year. They contend that the very requisition for the dossier of the next candidate was received from the Municipal Corporation on 03.06.2019 and by that time, the waiting list has lapsed.

5. Respondents No.3 and 4 filed their separate counter affidavits which in a way support the plea of the applicant.

6. Today, we heard Mr. Ajesh Luthra, learned counsel for the applicant, Mr. Anuj Kr. Sharma, learned counsel for the 2nd respondent - DSSSB, Mr. R.K. Jain, learned counsel for 3rd respondent and Mr. D.S. Mahendru, learned counsel for the 4th respondent.

7. The issue is in a very narrow compass. The notification was issued in the year 2013, and the selection as such has taken place only in the year 2019. The applicant was a candidate under PH category and he was placed at SI. No.2 in the merit list. Since only one post was available, he was put in the waiting list. Clause 11 of the advertisement reads as under:-

"11. The DSSSB shall draw a reserve panel/waiting list upto the extent of 10% of the posts notified, in addition to the number of candidates selected as per the notified vacancies. The reserve panel/waiting list shall be valid for a period of one year from the date of declaration of result and the vacancies arising due to non-acceptance of the offer of appointment, not joining the post after acceptance of appointment, the candidate not found eligible for appointment or due to resignation of selected candidates, within one year of joining the post, shall be filled up from this reserve panel/waiting list."

From this, it is evident that the waiting list would be in operation for a period of one year. In the instant case, the developments took place almost as flash points. The selected candidate, namely Mr. Neel Mani was issued an offer of appointment sometime in January, 2019. The Corporation OA No.243/2021 Item No.29 went on writing to the selected candidate to report to duty. The final notice was issued on 27.05.2019 and he was informed that if he does not join within three days, his appointment shall be deemed to have been withdrawn. Immediately thereafter, the 4th respondent forwarded the dossier of Mr. Neel Mani to 3rd respondent, for onward transmission to the Board. The formal cancellation of the candidature was done only on 31.05.2019.

8. If one takes into account, the very objective underlying the preparation and maintenance of wait list, it is only to avoid the possibility of the post remaining vacant even after the selection process was concluded. The selecting agency has to make huge efforts to filter the candidates and then publish the select list. If for any reason, a selected candidates do not join, the looser will not be just the candidate or the selecting agency, but the user department, and thereby public at large. Once the selection process in this case was spread over seven years, counting of a day this way or that way should not make much difference, particularly when the applicant is a candidate with physical disability. We are of the view that the existing vacancy of the post of ALO reserved in favour of PH category can be offered to the applicant, who is next in the merit.

9. We, therefore, allow the OA and direct the respondents to consider the case of the applicant for appointment as ALO against the vacancy reserved in favour of PH category after due verification, by treating that the wait list was alive, when the requisition was received. On being appointed, the applicant shall hold the office prospectively, without any benefit anterior to the date of appointment. The exercise in this behalf shall be completed within a period of six weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. There shall be no order as to costs.

       (Aradhana Johri)                 (Justice L. Narasimha Reddy)
         Member (A)                                 Chairman