Monday, September 25, 2023

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.

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