Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Delhi HC seeks Response of Delhi University on Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

Court: Delhi High Court

Bench:  Mr. Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav

Caste No(s): W.P.(C)  5390/2022

Title: Jayant Singh Raghav Vs. University of Delhi & Ors.

Date of Order: 08 November 2023

Next Date of Hearing:  07 December 2023


On a plea moved by one Jayant Singh Raghav, a student with visual disability of the Delhi University, raising the issue of provisions facilities and reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities during examinations.

The court asked the varsity to satisfy in the affidavit as to how the provisions of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, as well as the suggestions given by amicus curiae Advocate Kamal Gupta have been implemented. “As a last indulgence, 7 days time is granted to the respondent no.1- University to file comprehensive affidavit to satisfy as to how the provisions of the Act of 2016 and the suggestions/report of the Amicus Curiae have been implemented by the University,” the court said.

On March 10, the amicus curiae had handed over his report to the court wherein certain suggestions qua physical infrastructure and accessibility in the CLC as well as regarding Raghav were made. The report suggested that the Accessibility Guidelines and Standards for Higher Education Institutions and Universities, 2022, framed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) must be implemented immediately in CLC, Delhi University in time bound manner. 

It was also suggested that an access audit of CLC must be directed to be conducted immediately and a report be submitted to the court. The amicus curiae also suggested that at least 10 more ramps with tactile at various locations must be ordered to be erected immediately in the varsity and that a washroom for the disabled individuals be made functional on each floor as there was only one such toilet at present in the entire campus of CLC.

During the hearing, the counsel appearing for the Delhi Univeristy submitted that the repair work in toilets, corridors, open areas and provision of tactile and other facilities for persons with disabilities at CLC has been completed by the agency upto the satisfaction of varsity’s competent authority.

However, the court said, “Needless to state that the same was not only the expectation or the requirement under the provisions of the Act of 2016 or in the report submitted by the Amicus Curiae. It is to be seen that there are various other requirements to be adhered to by the respondent no.1-University,”.

Here is a copy of the order dated 08 November 2023:-

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Delhi HC directs Kendriya Vidyalaya to provide reservation to Deaf and Hard of Hearing candidates through a special recruitment drive

Court: Delhi High Court

Bench:  Satish Chandra Sharma, Chief Justice, Sanjeev Narula, Justice.

Caste No(s): W.P.(C) 17460/2022 

Title: Court on its own Motion Vs. Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan & Others

Connected matter: W.P.(C) 665/2023 National Association of the Deaf Vs. Union of India & Ors.

Date of Judgement: 01 November 2023

Neutral Citation: 2023: DHC: 7914-DB

Cases referred:  National Federation of the Blind Vs. Kendriya Vidvalaya Sangthan & Ors., 2023:DHC:7551-DB


The present petition was registered as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) based upon a letter dated 07.12.2022 of the National Association of Deaf (NAD/ the Association) through its President Mr. A.S. Narayanan being aggrieved by Advertisements No.15/2022 & 16/2022 issued by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) inviting applications for various posts of Principal, Vice-Principal, Post-Graduate Teacher (PGT), Trained Graduate Teacher (TGT), Librarian, Primary Teacher (Music), Finance Officer, as well as other posts. The NAD in its letter had stated that the advertisements issued by KVS were violative of statutory provisions as contained under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (the RPwD Act).

The bench while holding the recruitement exercise by the KVS on the basis of 2013 job identification list instead of the current 2021 job identification list as violation of the statutory provisions as contained under the RPwD Act, directed the KVS to conduct a speccial recruitment drive and recruit the persons with hard of hearing and those who are deaf on the posts s per the law.

"The KVS – in respect of the identified posts as per the notification dated 04.01.2021, shall issue an advertisement and shall clear the backlog of vacancies within a period of six months from the date of receipt of certified copy of this judgment." directed the Bench.

The court observed that the KVS has assumed a power which never vested in it (of deleting the identified posts on their own by instituting some internal committee). The task of identification as well as of exemption of posts falls in the domain of the appropriate government and not the KVS.

"It is unfortunate that disabled persons are being compelled to file writ petitions and are being compelled to run from pillar to post by an organization like KVS. They are not claiming any charity, and they are claiming their rights as guaranteed to them under the RPwD Act. The legislature has laid down a noble vision of providing “reasonable accommodation” to persons with disabilities so as to ensure that all possible special measures are adopted to enable the PwDs to perform to the best of their ability. Despite so, instead of creating such reasonable accommodation, the respondent has looked down upon the PwDs from the lens of inconvenience." expressed the bench.

Direction on Addressing the Policy Disconnect

The court said in its order, "Before parting, we feel constrained to observe that there appears to be a mismatch in the understanding of different departments regarding the mandate under RPwD Act. Whereas the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (Nodal Ministry under the RPwD Act) has upgraded the list of posts suitable for the PwDs, the thought has not percolated to the departments which conduct recruitment. A similar “policy disconnect” was noted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Vikash Kumar v. Union Public Service Commission and Others, (2021) 5 SCC 370, wherein the stand taken by the Nodal Ministry was found to be in contrast with the stand taken by the recruiting agency – UPSC. This policy disconnect had led to a situation wherein different departments are made to learn the same lesson after individual cases travel to the constitutional Courts. The direct impact of this practice is to compel the PwDs to assert their basic rights before judicial fora, something that cannot be termed as desirable. In this regard, we direct the concerned Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to issue suitable guidelines for the implementation of reservation policy by all departments in a uniform manner. One step may go far in the fulfilment of our promise to the PwDs. 

Read the Judgement in W.P.(C) 17460/2022 dated 01 Nov 2023

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Supreme Court seeks Union of India's Response to PIL Challenging Iron-Fortified Rice Program

Court: Supreme Court of India, New Delhi

Case No:  W.P.(C) No. 001100/2023  dated 30-09-2023   Pending- 38350/2023

Case Title: Rajesh Krishnan & Anr Vs. Union of India & Others

Date of filing: 30.09.2023


In a significant legal development, the Supreme Court has sought response of Union of India in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by concerned citizens, challenging the Government of India's iron-fortified rice program. The PIL raises critical concerns about the government's failure to adhere to their own advisories, which caution patients with Thalassemia and Sickle Cell Disease against consuming iron or recommend its use under strict medical supervision. Alarmingly, despite reaching out to various government departments and state food commissioners, the citizens received no response.

The government's iron-fortified rice program is an integral component of public safety net initiatives, including the Public Distribution System (PDS), mid-day meals, and anganwadis, providing sustenance to millions of Indians.

Underlining the gravity of the issue, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has clearly outlined in clause 7(4) of the Food Safety Act, supported by international scientific evidence, that individuals afflicted with haemoglobinopathies like Thalassemia and Sickle Cell Disease should refrain from consuming iron. Such consumption can lead to severe adverse consequences, including organ failure for those with these conditions.

However, investigations carried out by the Alliance for Holistic and Sustainable Agriculture (ASHA) and the Right to Food Campaign during fact-finding visits in two states revealed that iron-fortified rice was being distributed without due consideration, completely ignoring the necessity for medical screenings and supervision. More distressing was the revelation that individuals suffering from haemoglobinopathies were unaware of the potential harm posed by the rice. Astonishingly, state governments had not been issued any guidelines by the central government pertaining to these warnings. In addition, the rice was being distributed in both raw and cooked forms, especially in schemes such as mid-day meals, with minimal and poorly visible written or verbal warnings, often found only on the gunny bags. Shockingly, no provision for iron-free rice was made available to these vulnerable patients.

The recipients of state food schemes who are consuming this synthetic iron-fortified rice primarily consist of economically disadvantaged citizens who heavily rely on state-subsidized food. For them, iron-fortified rice has become a necessity, as they cannot afford to purchase non-fortified rice from the open market. The large-scale implementation of this program commenced before a pilot scheme in 15 states was thoroughly assessed or independently evaluated. According to government responses to Right to Information (RTI) queries, the evaluation of these pilot programs was expected to be concluded by late 2022, yet no evaluation findings have been made available to date.

In light of these pressing concerns, the PIL petitioners have made two fundamental demands. Firstly, they call upon the government to rigorously adhere to clause 7(4) of the Food Safety Act and ensure that comprehensive warnings reach consumers directly. Secondly, they insist that non-fortified rice be provided to patients with medical contraindications, safeguarding the well-being of these vulnerable individuals. The Supreme Court's directive is a significant step towards addressing these vital issues and ensuring the health and safety of those most in need.

Access the Petition here:

Monday, October 16, 2023

Supreme Court: Citing Reasonable Accommodation provisions, bench directs a person with defective colour vision to be appointed as Assistant Engineer Electrical

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: Hon'ble Mr. Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Hon'ble Mr. Justice Aravind Kumar

Case No.: Civil Appeal No. 6785 of 2023 [@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 12671 of 2022]

Case Title: Mohamed Ibrahim Vs. The Chairman & Managing Director & Ors.

Date of Judgement: 16 October 2023


The Supreme Court granted relief to the appellant - a person with colour blindness - who was denied appointment to the post of Assistant Engineer applying the principle of "reasonable accommodation" as defined in the RPwD Act. Incidently, colour blindness is not an identified or defined disability in the schedule to the Act.

The Court highlighted that the provisions of the RPwD Act are specifically designed to foster the participation and empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). However, it expressed its concern that the benefits arising from affirmative action are confined to a specific category of PwDs, including those with orthopedic, visual, hearing, and mental disabilities, among others covered in the schedule to the Act. These benefits are intricately linked to the concept of "benchmark" disabilities, which grants affirmative action and similar benefits to PwDs who meet a defined threshold of disability, typically 40 percent or more. This distinction based on specified categories and threshold conditions, as per the topc court, creates substantial barriers.

It bench observed, “The actual benefits in the form of affirmative action are defined by a specific category of PwDs (orthopaedical, visual, hearing, mental, etc.) and tied to the context of “benchmark” disabilities, which entitles those PwDs who qualify with a certain threshold of disability (40 percent or more) to the affirmative action and other similar benefits. The nature of inclusion of specified categories only to the exclusion of other categories of disabilities, on the one hand, and the eligibility of a threshold, in the opinion of this court, constitute barriers.”

"The twin conditions of falling within defined categories, and also a threshold condition of a minimum percentage, of such disabilities, in fact are a barrier," opined the court. The Court emphasized the necessity of a more rational and inclusive approach to accommodate individuals who may not it into the established categories of PwDs in the schedule to the Act.

“The facts of this case demonstrate that the appellant is fit, in all senses of the term, to discharge the duties attached to the post he applied and was selected for. Yet, he is denied the position, for being “disabled” as he is color blind. At the same time, he does not fit the category of PwD under the lexicon of the universe contained within the Act. These challenge traditional understandings of what constitutes “disabilities”. The court has to, therefore, travel beyond the provisions of the Act and discern a principle that can be rationally applied.”

The bench was hearing an appeal against the Madras HC judgment which had ruled in favour of the respondent(TANGEDCO) asserting its right to reject the appellant's candidature on the grounds of colour blindness. The case revolved around a job application for the position of Assistant Engineer (Electrical) by the appellant. The appellant, who was initially considered qualified for the role, was subsequently found to be color blind during a medical examination. This raised concerns about his ability to fulfill the responsibilities of an engineer, which frequently involve working with color-coded power cables and wires.

As a result of these concerns, TANGEDCO rejected the appellant's candidature. The appellant challenged this decision under Article 226 of the Constitution, and the Madras High Court initially ruled in his favor, directing TANGEDCO to offer him the position. However, in appeal before the division bench, the decision highlighted the evolving doctrine of proportionality, indicating that TANGEDCO's decision had a reasonable basis, even by this modern standard. Consequently, the division bench's judgment reversed the previous order, leading the appellant to seek redress from the Supreme Court. 

The SC bench noted that respondent TANGEDCO had not explicitly indicated that colour vision deficiency, in any form or degree, serves as a disqualifying factor for the role of an Assistant Engineer. It emphasized that the appellant, being a graduate in electrical engineering, possessed knowledge and experience related to the role's functions. Additionally, practical experience during the course exposed the candidate to equipment defects and solutions for breakdowns. Thus, the SC bench established the need for some form of accommodation.

The Court relied on Jeeja Ghosh v. Union of India (2016) 4 SCR 638 to highlight that when public facilities and services are designed with standards inaccessible to persons with disabilities, it results in their exclusion and a denial of rights. The concept of equality goes beyond merely preventing discrimination; it involves addressing systematic discrimination through positive rights, affirmative action, and reasonable accommodation.

The Court also cited the case of Ravinder Kumar Dhariwal v. Union of India  2021 (13) SCR 823, which distinguishes between formal equality and substantive equality. Substantive equality aims to achieve equal outcomes, and the principle of reasonable accommodation plays a critical role in this.

The Court observed that reasonable accommodation entails accommodating disabled individuals based on their capacities. It also relied on Vikash Kumar v. Union Public Service Commission  2021 (12) SCR 311, which held “The principle of reasonable accommodation acknowledges that if disability” should be remedied and opportunities are “to be affirmatively created for facilitating the development of the disabled. Reasonable accommodation is founded in the norm of inclusion. Exclusion results in the negation of individual dignity and worth or they can choose the route of reasonable accommodation, where each individual's dignity and worth is respected.”

The court also cited Ashutosh Kumar v. Film and Television Institute of India (2022),  where the Supreme Court directed the FTII to accommodate students with colour blindness saying, "The respondent institute is a premier institute and one would expect it to encourage liberate thought process and not put courses connected with films in any conformist box".

While  acknowledging the resondent's concerns about colour vision impairment, the Court reminded the TANGEDCO of its obligation to operate within the framework of "reasonable accommodation" as defined by Section 2(y) of the RPwD Act. Resultantly, the court set aside the impugned judgement of the Division bench of Madras High Court saying, “The impugned judgment cannot stand; it is set aside. TANGEDCO, the respondent corporation, is directed to appoint and continue the appellant in its service, as AE (Electrical) at the appropriate stage of the grade of pay,”.

During the hearing, the Court learnt that a member of the bar, Mr. Mehmoud Yumar Faruqi had life experiences of colour blindness -as someone living with a condition of colour blindness and had collected considerable case law and literature. The court had, therefore, requested his assistance for the proceedings. The court expressed its gratitude for his assistance.  

Access the judgement below:

Delhi HC holds KVS recruitment advertisement as unsustainable for denying reservation to blind persons

Court: Delhi High Court

Bench:  Hon'ble Satish Chandra Sharma, Chief Justice, and Hon'ble Justice Sanjeev Narula

Caste No: W.P.(C) 9520/2018 

Title: National Federation of Blind Vs. Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan & Others

Date of Judgement: 16 October 2023

Neutral Citation: 2023: DHC: 7551-DB


The Delhi high court termed a recruitment advertisement issued by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) as unsustainable as it excluded reservation for blind persons from the post of principal in a judgement dated 16 Oct 2023.

The court said that every act of exclusion that has the effect of compelling a person with disabilities out of a race for gaining employment without their fault is an assault on their dignity . 

A bench opined that the advertisement issued by the KVS in August 2018 for the posts of principal, vice-principal, PGTs, TGTs, librarian distinguished PwDs and had the effect of excluding them from the race of recruitment as the distinction was purely on the basis of disability.

“The impugned advertisement distinguishes the persons with disabilities from others and puts a restriction on their potential to participate in the recruitment process to their full ability. The distinction is purely on the basis of disability. The advertisement has the effect of excluding the persons with disabilities from the race of recruitment, in complete violation of the mandatory reservation provision. It may be noted that an act of discrimination is not only a denial of the promise of equal protection before the law. Rather, every act of exclusion is an assault on the dignity of a person. More so, when the exclusion has the effect of compelling the persons with disabilities out of a race for gaining employment, without any fault of theirs. Instead of providing an equal space to grow, we have been compelling the persons with disabilities to prove, time and again, that they are capable of a lot more than we think,” said the bench in its verdict.

The court also said, “We may usefully note that the power of identification of posts is bound by a procedure, which, amongst other things, involves consultation with experts including persons with disabilities. The persons with disabilities are the direct stakeholders in this exercise and the legislature has aptly carved out a provision for a consultative exercise with such persons. It is a manifestation of the principles of natural justice and there can be no deviation from the statutory procedure. Exclusion of a post, without engaging in a consultative exercise, shall also be violative of the principles of natural justice.”

The bench also opined that the Sangathan at the stage of recruitment and advertisement of vacancies was duty bound to reserve 4 % of the total number of vacancies, inclusive of vacancies against identified as well as unidentified posts.

The court cautioned that it was impermissible to exclude subjects which cannot be taught by PwDs at the time of reservation of vacancies.

“Once recruited, appointments can be made against the posts identified as suitable for respective categories of persons with disabilities. There is no power with the respondent or its committee to revisit and cut short the list notified by the government. The process of identification or its review is to be carried out by the appropriate government only. Further, the said exercise is to be carried out after constitution of an expert committee with due representation of persons with benchmark disabilities,” said the court directing the KVS to reserve the post of principal for blind persons, conduct an audit of the total number of vacancies in the establishment and prepare a vacancy based roster for recruitment of PwDs within three months.

“The rights belonging to the persons with disabilities are meant to secure inclusivity and human dignity. Such rights, although statutorily enacted, find their roots in the fundamental rights of life, equality and non-discrimination, as enshrined in the Constitution. The guarantee of equal opportunity to all equally extends to the persons with disabilities and while interpreting the benevolent provisions of the statutes in this regard, the court must be mindful of the same,” the court also said.

Read the Judgement in W.P.(C) 9520/2018 below:

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Bombay HC directs Police Cop to compensate an NDA Professor for a false probe against him for alleged fake disabilty certificate

Court: Bombay High Court

Bench: Hon'ble Justice Nitin W. Sambre & Hon'ble Justice R.N. Laddha

Case No. – Writ Petition No. 1124 of 2018 

Case Title – Dr. Kamal Chandra Tiwari v. State of Maharashtra & Anr.

Date of Judgement: 04 Aug 2023

Cited as: 2023:BHC-AS:29209-DB

Case brief:

Slamming a police officer for falsely implicating a disabled professsor of the National Defence Academy (NDA) by carrying out a false investigation for a genuine disability certificate, a division bench of the Bombay High Court has quashed and set aside the FIR and consequential proceedings against the staffer and ordered compensation of Rs. 25,000 to be paid to one Dr. Kamal Chandra Tiwari, an Assistant Professor at the National Defence Academy, Pune falsely prosecuted for producing fake disability certificates.

The court ordered a compensation of Rs 25,000 to be paid to the employee, to be recovered from the salary of the investigation officer. The officer had ignored communication from the hospital verifying the employee's disability certificate. The employee's advocate stated that the officer's actions were vindictive.

“Such an act of the investigating officer (IO)... can be termed as causing mental agony, lowering down dignity and ill-treating the petitioner, an academician (sic),” said Justices Nitin Sambre and R N Laddha in the August 4 order released on Thursday.

They awarded compensation of Rs 25,000 to Kamal Tiwari and directed it to be paid to the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority within six months. The state will recover the amount from the salary of the IO, Anand Pagare, who is currently posted as inspector at Police Training Centre, Daund.

The NDA had sent Tiwari’s 41% disability certificate issued by Sassoon Hospital, Pune, on December 1, 2012, to the facility for verification. The hospital said it couldn’t trace the original record, prompting the NDA to lodge a police complaint in May 2016 that Tiwari, who had joined as assistant professor (sociology), had produced a forged certificate. Tiwari was booked under Sections 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), and 471 (using as genuine a forged document) of the IPC.

In September 2016, the hospital wrote to the IO Pagare that the original record had been traced.  The investigating officer Pagare intentionally and deliberately overlooked the same and purely with an intention to initiate malafide prosecution has charge-sheeted the petitioner in July 2017. 

In June, the judges issued a contempt notice to IO Pagare after he “intentionally” ignored their query on whether he had looked into the record. In his reply, Pagare said he had recorded the statements of two doctors who denied signing the certificate. He said it was his first posting. The judges said he was expected to verify the certificate’s genuineness.

Tiwari’s advocate Jagdish Reddy said he suffered because of Pagare’s vindictive attitude. Pagare’s advocate Satyavrat Joshi said he regrets the bonafide mistake and tenders his unconditional apology to the court and to Tiwari.

"Such act of the Investigating Officer, in our opinion, can be termed as causing mental agony, lowering down dignity and ill-treating the petitioner, an academician. The prosecution initiated by the said officer can be termed as malicious which has not only caused harassment to the petitioner but also immeasurable anguish. The fact that the petitioner, a handicap person is an academician having good repute an employee of National Defence Academy, Pune and the acts done with clandestine manner by the Investigating Officer, in our opinion, warrant award of compensation as has been prayed by him. Counsel for the petitioner magnanimously stated that he is not interested in the amount of compensation which can be made over to the Legal Services Authority, however, the Investigating Officer should realize his mistake which should be pinching for bias and malafide criminal prosecution against the petitioner. In the backdrop of aforesaid observations, we deem it appropriate to award compensation of Rs.25,000/- by Mr.Anand Pagare, Investigating Officer to be paid to the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority within period of six months from today." observed the bench.

The bench discharged the contempt notice with the following obervations:

"As far as contempt notice is concerned, we hereby warn the investigating officer Mr Anand Pagare, Police Inspector presently attached to Police Training Centre, Nanvij Daud, Pune to be more diligent in carrying out his duty as a police officer. With above warning, we discharge the contempt notice."

Read the Order:

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!

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Delhi HC passes important directions to make Court system accessible and to realise Access to Justice for persons with disabilities under Section 12 of RPwD Act 2016 and emphasizes "Active Judicial Conduct" to ensure PwD's actual, practical and meaningful participation in the judicial process and fair trial.

Court: Delhi High Court

Bench: Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma

Case No.: W.P.(CRL) 2500 / 2022

Case Title: Rakesh Kumar Kalra Deaf Divyang Vs. State Govt. of NCT of Delhi

Decided on: August 24, 2023

Cited as:  Revised Neutral citation-  2023:DHC:6132  ; 2023 SCC OnLine Del 5261


The petitioner, by way of above writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India read with Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India, sought issuance of appropriate writ, order or directions in the nature of mandamus thereby directing the respondent/State to constitute a Special Court as per Section 84 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and to make the criminal trial he is facing friendly to his disability so that he can participate in it fully.

"It was crucial that this Court examine the question in view of the issue raised by the petitioner herein as to whether the judicial system itself has complied with the requirement of equality apropos a person with disability who is an accused or petitioner before the court of law, while it administers justice." expressed the court.

The Court issued pivotal directions to address the critical issue of ensuring that persons with disabilities can actively participate in legal proceedings. The court emphasized that no citizen should feel denied of justice due to physical or mental disabilities, either because of the lack of appropriate infrastructure or insensitivity within the judicial system.

The case at hand involved a petitioner who had filed a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution and Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The petitioner, who had been deaf since childhood and also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder-induced eye cataract and post-traumatic fractured maligned joint stiffness, faced significant challenges in participating in trial proceedings related to allegations against them. The court recognized that these challenges infringed upon the principles of natural justice, contravened the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, and violated constitutional rights.

To address these issues, the court referred to the importance of fair trials as a fundamental right in the Indian criminal justice system, citing the case of Zahira Habibullah Sheikh v. State of Gujarat (2006) 3 SCC 374. The court highlighted the need to implement Section 12 of the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, which aimed to make legal proceedings more accessible to individuals with disabilities. It also referred to the Supreme Court's E-Committee's Standard Operating Procedure on Preparation of Accessible Court Documents.

The judgment also pointed out the inadequacy of Special Courts under the RPWD Act, as they were limited to certain offenses. The court stressed the importance of alternative methods, such as the use of braille, sign language, and assistive technology, to enable individuals with disabilities to participate in legal proceedings effectively.

Additionally, the court provided a list of infrastructural improvements necessary to ensure accessibility, including facilities like wheelchairs, elevators, and sign language interpreters in courts. It called for judicial education and training to raise awareness of the needs of persons with disabilities, drawing inspiration from the cases of State of Maharashtra v. Bandu (2018) 11 SCC 163 and Smruti Tukaram Badade v. State of Maharashtra (2022 SCC OnLine SC 78.

The judgment underscored the need for a specific provision within the RPWD Act to address the requirements of witnesses, accused persons, advocates, and others involved in judicial trials and proceedings.

To ensure effective compliance with Section 12(4)(c) of the RPWD Act, the court issued various directives, including the provision of essential electronic gadgets, the creation of schemes to address the needs of accused persons with disabilities, and increased public awareness about available resources. The Delhi Judicial Academy was also tasked with holding sensitization programs for judges, lawyers, court staff, and police.

The Court was of the opinion that active judicial conduct to ensure access of persons with disabilities in  the judicial process will ensure achieving constitutional vision of justice of ensuring fundamental and human rights of persons with disabilities and their actual, practical and meaningful participation in the judicial process and fair trial.

In conclusion, the Delhi High Court's judgment emphasizes the importance of ensuring access to justice for persons with disabilities, particularly in the context of the specific case. The court provides a comprehensive set of directions to address the challenges faced by the petitioner and others in similar situations. These directives aim to create a more inclusive and accessible judicial system, thus upholding the constitutional vision of justice. The authorities are required to implement these directives within a three-month period.

Read the judgemnet here: