Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Responding to a PIL in Karnataka HC, Govt Mandates Voice-Based Public Address Systems in Buses: A Victory for Inclusive Transportation

Court: Karnataka High Court

Bench: Chief Justice Prasanna B. Varale and Justice Krishna S. Dixit

Date of Hearing: 20 Dec 2023


In a significant stride towards inclusive transportation, the Karnataka State government has taken a decisive step by mandating the installation of voice-based public address systems and disabled-friendly mechanisms in all existing buses. This development, revealed during a hearing at the High Court of Karnataka, marks a crucial milestone in response to a PIL petition filed by N. Shreyas Reddy, a visually impaired lawyer, advocating for improved accessibility for commuters with disabilities.

The government's commitment to enhancing public transportation accessibility was demonstrated through the issuance of a circular on December 19, 2023 which stipulates the mandatory installation of voice-based public address systems. This initiative, aimed at benefiting visually challenged commuters, underscores the State's proactive approach in addressing the needs of vulnerable segments of society.

During earlier proceedings, the government assured the court of its intention to introduce a voice-based alert system, signaling a promising commitment to inclusive transportation policies. Subsequently, during the hearing on 20 Dec 2023, the government counsel confirmed the issuance of the circular and assured that both public and private stage carriage vehicles would be equipped with these systems by June 30, 2024.

The circular outlines clear directives for both new and existing vehicles. For new vehicles, the installation of these systems will be verified at the time of registration, while for existing vehicles, it will be assessed during the renewal of fitness certificates. Additionally, the government counsel informed the court of forthcoming clarity through another circular regarding the installation process, further demonstrating a proactive approach towards implementation.

In response to these developments, the Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Prasanna B. Varale and Justice Krishna S. Dixit adjourned further proceedings while requesting the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation to provide a compliance report on the assurance given to the court regarding the installation of these systems in new buses procured from January 2024 onwards.

This proactive stance by the Karnataka government reflects a commendable commitment to fostering inclusive transportation infrastructure. By prioritizing the needs of visually challenged commuters, the government sets a precedent for other states to emulate, furthering the cause of accessibility and inclusivity in public transportation networks.

As these initiatives progress, there is renewed optimism for a future where transportation systems are not only efficient but also equitable, ensuring that every citizen, regardless of ability, can access essential services and opportunities.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Delhi High Court Grants Relief in Landmark Judgment: Upholding Rights of Persons with Disabilities Against Unjust Transfer [Judgement included]

Court: Delhi High Court 

Bench: Hon’ble Mr. Justice Chandra Dhari Singh

Case Title: Bhavneet Singh Vs  Ircon Internatioal Ltd. through Chairman & MD & Ors.

Case No: W.P.(C) 12404/2022, CM APPL. Nos. 37256/2022 & 10458/2023

Decided on: 15th December 2023

Cases Refered:  Net Ram Yadav Vs. The State of Rajasthan & Ors. 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1022

Facts of the Case

The petitioner, an individual with orthopedic disabilities with a 72% locomotor impairment, field this petition under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, challenging a transfer order issued by IRCON International Ltd.  relocating the petitioner from the corporate office to the Chhattisgarh Rail Project.

Alleging non-compliance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the petitioner contended that such a transfer would lead to undue harassment, pose health risks, and deprive him of essential medical care. The petitioner argued that the transfer contravened Articles 14 and 16, as well as the provisions of the Disability Act.

In response, IRCON defended the transfer, citing administrative necessities, professional interests, and the amenities available at the new location. They asserted that the move was not intended to be malicious and even offered additional benefits to the petitioner at the new place of transfer.

Upon careful examination of the reasons presented and consideration of the applicable legal standards, the court ruled that the transfer order violated Article 14 and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act. The court underscored the importance of ensuring equal opportunities and suitable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Consequently, the court set aside the transfer orders, granting relief in favor of the petitioner.

Read the Court Judgement dated 15 Dec 23 below:

Court of CCPD issues notice to Ola Cabs on disability discrimination meted out to a disabled veteran refusing to accept the wheelchair for ride.

Court: Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Govt of India.

Presided by: Shri Rajesh Aggarwal, CCPD

Case Title: Wing Commander Shantanu Vs. Ola Cabs.

Date of Notice/Order: 15 Dec 2023


The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) has issued a notice to Ola Cabs in response to a complaint filed by Wing Commander Shantanu, a para shooter, and a veteran of the Indian Air Force. The notice addresses the alleged denial by an Ola Cab driver to accept the wheelchair of the para shooter, who has an 80% locomotor disability.

According to the complaint lodged with the CCPD, Wing Commander Shantanu had booked an Ola cab to travel a short distance from the Karni Singh Shooting Range, where he was participating in the 1st Khelo India Para Games, to a location 3 kilometres away on Tuesday, December 12, 2023 as there was no space in the rear boot, occupied by a CNG kit, the para shooter’s wife requested the driver to place the folded wheelchair in the back seat—a common practice among sedan cab drivers.

However, the specific Ola driver, whose details have been withheld, reportedly responded aggressively, using derogatory language, and demanded that the couple exit the cab, refusing to accommodate the wheelchair.

Feeling aggrieved and humiliated by this encounter, the Air Force veteran complained to the CCPD, seeking redress and action against the driver. The CCPD, viewing the allegations as an affront to the dignity of a person with a disability, particularly a soldier and sportsperson, has issued a notice to Ola Cabs.

The notice requires Ola to respond within 30 days, addressing the reported ill-treatment and ensuring necessary action is taken to prevent such incidents in the future.

Navigating Indian towns poses unique challenges for individuals using wheelchairs. The infrastructure often lacks proper accessibility features, such as ramps or elevators, footpaths, making it difficult for wheelchair users to access public spaces, including sidewalks and buildings.

Narrow and crowded streets further complicate mobility, hindering the smooth movement of wheelchairs. Additionally, public transportation systems may not be wheelchair-friendly, with limited or no provisions for boarding and disembarking.

The overall lack of awareness and accommodation in public spaces contributes to the daily struggles faced by wheelchair users, impacting their ability to move freely and independently in Indian towns despite their equal right to use public transport and public spaces.

Source: Press Release, Govt. of India

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Court of CCPD issues interim directions to Govt. Functionaries to meet disabled visitors on ground floor or other accessible place, until their building is made accesssible.

Court: Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Govt of India.

Bench: Shri Rajesh Aggarwal, CCPD

Case No. 14580/1101/2023

Case Title:  Suo Motu in Virali Modi's marrige registration on inaccessible floor case.

Date of Notice/Order: 09 Nov 2023


In a landmark judicial intervention, the Court of Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD), Government of India, recently took suo motu cognizance of a distressing incident involving Ms. Virali Modi, a bride who faced severe accessibility challenges at the office of a marriage registrar in Maharashtra. Ms. Modi, a wheelchair user, encountered significant hurdles on her wedding day, underscoring systemic deficiencies in accommodating persons with disabilities as mandated by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 ("the Act").

Background and Legal Framework

The court's intervention was prompted by the distressing treatment Ms. Modi received despite prior arrangements and the knowledge of her specific needs. This incident, emblematic of broader accessibility issues nationwide, prompted the Chief Commissioner's proactive step to initiate a quasi-judicial proceeding. The goal was to address not only the specific case but also to highlight systemic failures across public service sectors in ensuring barrier-free access.

Respondents' Submissions and Court Actions

Respondent No. 1, representing the Maharashtra government, acknowledged the gravity of the incident and detailed corrective actions taken, including the suspension and relocation of responsible officials. The Central Public Works Department (CPWD), speaking on behalf of Respondent No. 3, raised concerns regarding retrofitting challenges and sought court guidance on budgetary provisions for necessary modifications.

Judicial Observations and Interim Directions

The court's observations underscored the widespread non-compliance with accessibility norms, despite clear statutory mandates under Sections 44, 45, and 46 of the RPwD Act. These sections mandate adherence to accessibility guidelines for all new constructions and the retrofitting of existing structures within specified timeframes, measures which have not been consistently implemented nationwide.

The Court of CCPD issued following interim directives aimed at immediate compliance:-

(1) The time limit for making old public buildings accessible is already over and considering that the public services run by the government are generally monopolistic, leaving no choice to the customer or citizen/beneficiary to seek the service elsewhere. Hence, concerned officers of any government office across the country, whether a central government or a state government establishment or a local government, officiating from any buildings/premises which are still not made accessible, shall go down to the ground floor or any other place in the building/premises which is accessible for divyangjan along with necessary staff and equipment and provide the service there itself. This shall be applicable to any public service including outsourced service by the government such as the Passport/Visa services, Jan Suvidha Kendras, CSC etc.

(2) The CPWD/State PWD/Municipal Corporation or any other agency, responsible of giving fitness or rent reasonability certificate for hiring or renting or renewal of the hiring or renting of any public or private building shall not give certificates unless the building is accessible. If a government establishment owning or managing a building or operating from a building which is not accessible and is not also willing to prioritise the required work of alteration, then the public works department concerned shall report the matter to their head of the department with information to this Court or the Court of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities concerned, as the case may be.

(3) Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs to furnish the details of training modules developed for implementation of the Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India- 2021 and the number of engineers, architects and town planners who have been trained on the subject within 30 days of the issue of these RoPs. MoHUA will also indicate the compliance status and steps taken to ensure implementation of Section 44 of the Act.

(4) This Court is satisfied by the action taken by Respondent No. 1 & 4. Hence, their names be dropped from the array of parties in the matter. However, Respondent No. 2 & 3 shall continue to attend the hearings in this matter. Secretary, Department of Higher Education and Chairman, AICTE shall be impleaded in the matter, who shall within 30 days of the issue of these RoPs shall furnish details about incorporation of Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India- 2021 in the curriculum of Civil Engineering and Architecture Courses.

(5) The RoP shall be forwarded to all Secretaries of Government of India and Chief Secretaries of state governments and UT administration for their information and necessary action. This is to ensure compliance of direction in 3.3(1) above, which is repeated :"Concerned officers of any government office across the country, whether a central government or a state government establishment or a local government, officiating from any buildings/premises which are still not made accessible, shall go down to the ground floor or any other place in the building/premises which is accessible for divyangjan along with necessary staff and equipment and provide the service there itself. This shall be applicable to any public service including outsourced service by the government such as the Passport/Visa services, Jan Suvidha Kendras, CSC etc."


The case of Ms. Virali Modi serves as a poignant reminder of the imperative to translate legal mandates into actionable realities. The Chief Commissioner's proactive stance not only addressed immediate grievances but also set a precedent for rigorous enforcement of accessibility standards nationwide. As India continues its journey towards inclusivity, such judicial interventions play a crucial role in bridging the gap between policy intent and on-ground implementation, ensuring equitable access to public services for all citizens. 

This Suo-motu cognizance in the matter of obstacles, risks and humiliation faced by Divyangjan regarding non-accessibility of public services highlights the pivotal role of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities in safeguarding the rights enshrined in the RPwD Act, advocating for a society where physical barriers no longer obstruct the fundamental rights of individuals with disabilities. 

Read the CCPD's Record of Proceedings

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Court of CCPD issues Suo Motu notice to Department of Posts for use of inappropriate terms as "Lunatic Account" for a person with autism.

Court: Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, New Delhi

Case No: 14668/1102/2023 

Case Title: Suo Motu against Department of Posts, Govt. of India & Anr. 

Date of Notice: 07 Dec 2023


The Court of CCPD has taken cognizance of a news item published in the daily, “The Hindu” on 21.11.2023 (Chennai Edition) which says that ‘Post office opens ‘Lunatic Account’ for autisticman; plaint lodged’. According to the news item, a senior citizen-a telecom family pensioner, approached the GKM Postal Colony Post Office in Chennai some months ago to open a savings account and term deposit account in the name of his son who has autism.  He had requested to open a Guardian Operated Account, furnishing his son’s National Disability Identity Card and the Guardianship Certificate given under the National Trust Act. His account was opened but citing a colonial-era legislation, Section 12 of the Government Savings Bank Act, 1873, the Department of Posts is continuing the insensitive practice of classifying the account as “Lunatic Account”. 

Incidently, "as per the Section 12 of Government Savings Bank Act, 1873, persons with unsound mind or incapable of managing his affairs are defined as lunatics and as such, the same terminology is used in Post Office Saving Bank operations," clarified a communication from the department of posts.

The court highlighted the mandate of Section 13 of RPWD Act that provides that the appropriate government shall ensure that the persons with disabilities have rights equally with others to control their financial affairs and have access to bank loans and other forms of financial credit and enjoy legal capacity. The Section and the Preamble of the Act also provides that the autonomy, dignity, and privacy of persons with disability shall be respected;

The court also refered to the UN issued Disability Inclusive Language Guidelines launched by the United Nations in 2019 as part of its UN Disability Inclusion Strategy The said guidelines in its  Annexure I lists various commonly used terms, which should be avoided and has also mapped such terms with corresponding terms recommended by the UN. The policy of the UN aims to establish the highest levels of commitment and a vision for the United Nations system on disability inclusion for the next decade, and aims at establishing an institutional framework for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, among other international human rights instruments and development and humanitarian commitments.

Here is the Suo Motu Notice: