Monday, September 25, 2023

Supreme Court seeks Centre's resonse to a plea which sougth quanum of assistance to PwDs 25% higher than those given to others as per section 24(1)

A bench headed by CJI Chandrachud issued notice to the Centre seeking its response on the petition filed by Delhi-based organisation 'Bhumika Trust' and posted the matter for hearing after four weeks

The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to respond to a plea which sought that quantum of assistance to persons with disabilities should be 25 per cent higher than those given to others under similar social welfare schemes.

A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud issued notice to the Centre seeking its response on the petition filed by Delhi-based organisation 'Bhumika Trust' and posted the matter for hearing after four weeks.

The bench, also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, requested Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati to assist the apex court in the matter.

The top court noted the petitioner has relied on the proviso to section 24 (1) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Section 24 of the 2016 Act deals with social security and section 24 (1) says, "The appropriate government shall within the limit of its economic capacity and development formulate necessary schemes and programmes to safeguard and promote the right of persons with disabilities for adequate standard of living to enable them to live independently or in the community: provided that the quantum of assistance to the persons with disabilities under such schemes and programmes shall be at least 25 per cent higher than the similar schemes applicable to others." Jayant Singh Raghav, president of the organisation, told the bench that proviso to section 24 (1) of the Act provides that quantum to be provided to the persons with disabilities needs to be 25 per cent additional to the others under similar social welfare schemes.

"Which are the schemes in respect of which you are claiming a 25 per cent enhancement," the bench asked.

Raghav referred to the disability pension given by different states.

"Presently, instead of issuing notice to all the states, we will issue notice only to the Union of India and we will then see what the Union Government has to say," the bench said.

Source: Unedited stroy from syndicate feeds

Accessibility in residential societies remains a matter of concern; petitioner, a blind person litigates to seek justice.

Court: Delhi High Court 

Bench: Hon'ble Justice V. KAMESWAR RAO,  Hon'ble Justice ANOOP KUMAR MENDIRATTA

Case No.: WP (Civil) No. 7642/2022

Case TitleJayant Singh Raghav v Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authority, & Ors.

Next Date of Hearing06/10/2023

Case Brief:

The petitioner Jayant Singh Raghav, is a person with a disability has raised this litigation alleging rights infringement of individuals with disabilities in accessing suitable facilities within residential communities against the Chandanwari Society (a residential housing society) with Delhi Development Authority (DDA) as the resondents. 

The petitioner emphasizes what he perceives as a violation of the rights of persons with disabilities to access appropriate facilities within residential communities. He contends that the environment lacks provisions tailored to his specific needs, obstructs equal opportunities, and disrupts harmonious communal living.

In response, the Chandanwari Society, represented by the respondents, counters these claims by asserting their consistent efforts to ensure unimpeded accessibility for the petitioner. The Society argues that it has taken substantial measures to establish a barrier-free environment within the apartment complex.

Before approaching the high court, petitioner had lodged a complaint with the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Government of NCT of Delhi, citing the society's perceived inaction. The complaint pointed out a violation of Rule-15 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rule, 2017. A subsequent directive highlighted shortcomings and mandated rectifications. However, the complaint was closed without comprehensive justification by passing an order.

Unsatisfied with the complaint's closure, the petitioner turned to the Hon’ble Delhi High Court, filing a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. The grounds for the petition include alleged breaches of fundamental rights under Article 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution. The petitioner also raised concerns about non-compliance with the "Harmonized Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier-free Built Environment for Persons with Disabilities and Elderly Persons" 2016.

Differing viewpoints emerged regarding the application of the Unified Bye-Laws where the petitioner contends that the society's layout and infrastructure do not conform to the Unified Bye-Laws, 2016. However, the respondents assert that the apartment complex was constructed under the Unified Bye-Laws, 1983, making substantial reconstruction impractical after 33 years. Despite this, the respondents assert their ongoing commitment to enhance accessibility within existing structural constraints.

Mr. Raghav is critical of the changes implemented by the society, suggesting that they are cosmetic and, in some cases, potentially hazardous to disabled individuals. He expresses concerns over the safety and effectiveness of the alterations, arguing that hurried modifications might inadvertently lead to harm.

Throughout the legal process, the petitioner filed various ancillary applications alongside the primary writ petition, including inter-locutary application, early hearing application, and urgent application.

The petitioner further claims that the modifications initiated by the respondents are confined to Tower-3 of the society, where he resides. However, he contends that the issue extends beyond his personal access to encompass the entire society. He emphasizes that the concern is not solely about Common area accessibility of the block where the petitioner resides but pertains to the community's overall inclusion.

In conclusion, the case underscores the intricate interplay between an individual with disabilities striving for equitable access and a residential society working within practical limitations to achieve accessibility standards. The legal journey encompasses a range of stages, from pre-court complaints to constitutional writ petitions, highlighting the petitioner's pursuit of enforcing rights. Consequently, the petitioner has filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) before The Hon’ble Supreme Court seeking an expedited grant of the interim relief as prayed for.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Forced to climb staircase at the theatre, disabled man files complaint in consumer forum citing lack of accessibility, theatre directed to pay Rs 1 lakh compensation

Dear colleagues,

An inaccessible cinema theatre, which had neither elevators nor ramps despite the provisions of RPWD Act 2016 mandating accessibility in public spaces, and made a person with a disability climb the staircase to watch actor Udhayanidhi's 'Nenjukku Neethi' movie, has been asked to pay ₹1 lakh as compensation to the aggrieved person. 

The Thiruvallur District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum passed the order based on a complaint from S Sureshkumar of Kundrathur. He complained that he went to Gokulam Cinemas in Poonamallee to watch 'Nenjukku Neethi' in May 2022, but realised on entering the premises that the screen was on the second floor, and yet it had no lifts or ramps. 

The theatre employees told Suresh that he had to climb the staircase due to which he suffered severe leg pain the same day, said Suresh, who has locomotor disability of 60%. He alleged that Gokulam Cinemas had violated Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 by not providing lifts or ramps in the newly built complex and the district collector too was at fault for having issued licence to the theatre hall without proper inspection as required under section 44 of the Act of 2016.

In response, Gokulam Cinemas said Suresh was not on their premises on the said date to watch the movie and he was trying to mislead the court with a ticket borrowed from another person. Counsel for the theatre argued that work to install lifts could not be completed due to Covid-19 pandemic. 

The forum rejected the management's argument, saying: "The contention could not be entertained as Covid-19 effects came to an end two years ago." It directed the theatre to pay ₹1 lakh as compensation for the mental agony and hardship caused, and another ₹10,000 towards Suresh's litigation expenses. The Thiruvallur district collector has been directed to take necessary action against the theatre within four weeks.

More such cases are on the anvil as the timelines for implementing mandatory accessibility is over. Those who have been sleeping over the accessibiltiy mandate are waking up to such music.  Its high time that the establishments must get their buildings and services access audited and take remedial action. Its better late than never!