Showing posts with label Accessibility of Public Transport Buses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Accessibility of Public Transport Buses. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Diverse Stakeholders Move Madras High Court in support of Accesssible Low Floor Buses - say, it also helps them - not just the disabled.

Kindly refer to our post dated 22 July 2022,  26 August 2022 on the subject of procurement of low floor accesssible buses in the State of Tamilnadu. Despite the Court directions, the State has been hell bent on arguing in favour of the high floor inaccessible buses that puts a large population of persons with disabilities in the state at a disadvantage and denying them their right to equality when it comes to public transportation. The state has been trying to argue that it would buy some percentage of buses as acessible low floor misinterpreting the Law of the land and citing reasons of floods and high costs of accesssible buses. 

The accessible low floor buses are not just an issue of disabled people alone. It impacts a large number of users of public transport such as women wearing saris, children, women who are family way, people of short stature. In fact, all persons feel safe when an accessible mode of transport is provided.

To support the case of demand for mandatory low floor accessible buses, a woman with mobility impairment on both her lower limbs, a 70-year-old lawyer with 44 years of standing in the Bar, a pregnant college student and a 68-year-old retired entrepreneur have moved Madras High Court through a public interest litigation, in support of a plea to ensure that all intra-city government buses are universally accessible. The PIL plea says that senior citizens, pregnant women and vendors also find it difficult to board the government buses, hencce the state needs to be directed to only purchase accessible low floor buses.

Acting Chief Justice T. Raja and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy on Monday granted time till December 21 for the Transport Department to respond to their petitions for impleading as parties in a public interest litigation (PIL) petition preferred by cross disability rights activist Vaishnavi Jayakumar of Chennai.

The activist had challenged a tender notification issued on October 10 for procuring 1,771 fully built non-AC diesel buses including 1,170 buses with a floor height of 900 mm. She contended that the law permits procurement of only low floor buses (400 mm) or with a maximum floor height of 650 mm with ramps/kneeling system/lifts for entry.

The Transport Department had already filed a counter affidavit stating that it would not be possible to ply only low floor buses in all cities unless and until the allied infrastructure, such as good roads, was fully in place. It also asserted that no law or court order had been violated in the recent tender notification.

However, in her affidavit in support of the impleading petition, P. Kavitha, a differently abled woman, said she was dependent on a pair of crutches and calipers for commuting from one place to another and that it was virtually impossible for her to either board or get down from buses with a floor height of 900 mm.

“The concentrated weight of the calipers on my lower limbs (which is around 4 kgs) makes the process of climbing the high steep steps extremely cumbersome and time consuming. As a result, I am often at the receiving end of my co-passengers’ irritation and impatience vis-à-vis holding up the bus,” she said.

She highlighted that inaccessibility of public transport affects the freedom of movement of persons with locomotor and other disabilities. The tender notification under challenge had been issued in callous disregard of the need for accessible public transport for the differently-abled individuals, she complained.

Advocate Sudha Ramalingam too wanted to implead herself as party in the case on the ground that high floor buses were nightmare to embark and disembark not only for the differently abled but also for the elderly dependent on public transport.

She said women with infants and young kids too find it difficult to access the high floor buses and that the fruit and flower vendors too struggle to get into the buses. Many had suffered injuries on the knees and legs while accessing the buses, she lamented and said, low floor buses were a fundamental requirement and not a luxury.

Similarly, T.S. Santhakumari, a 68-year-old retired entrepreneur, supported her view and said senior citizens with knee pain could not travel in government buses due to the very high floor height. She said that low floor buses would provide the elderly people the confidence and the joy of being able to travel without much difficulty.

Yet another impleading petitioner M.K. Divyadeshna, a 7-month pregnant college student, said, she had to travel from Tiruvallur to Guindy on a daily basis to pursue her studies. Government buses were the only affordable means of travel but the risk in travelling in them, due to their inaccessible nature, was beyond contemplation, she rued.

It is interesting to note as to how the state would cotinue to ignore the needs of a vast section of society misinterpreting the mandate of the accessibility law anchored in the Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016 and Rules made thereunder.

Related News: The Hindu.  

Friday, August 26, 2022

Madras HC dismissed the plea of TN Govt. seeking clarification of the order that directed them to purchase only accessible low floor buses.

Court:             Madras High Court, India

Case Title:     The Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai) Ltd. Vs. Vaishnavi Jayakumar & Ors.

Case No. :      WMP/83132/2022 in WP/5957/2021

Filed on :        03-08-2022  

Reiterating its earlier order, the Madras High Court refused to alter or clarify its earlier order dated 05 Jul 2022 on allowing only low floor disabled friendly buses in the state.  The earlier order had directed the state transport corporations to procure 2,213 buses in strict compliance with the rules and regulations of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act and that cannot be altered, said the  the first bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice N Mala.

“The order was passed as per the directions of the Supreme Court. If you (the corporation) want to alter it you have to approach the Supreme Court,”

While passing the last order, the the bench had lifted the ban on procuring new public transport buses on condition that the corporation shall comply with the rules and regulations of the RPWD Act. Subsequently, alleging that the condition to comply with the rules caused an impediment, the corporation moved a memo to clarify the order.

The corporation sought to submit that operating the low-floor disabled-friendly buses was difficult, as it caused damage to buses. But the court refused to accept the contention, and thus the plea was permitted to be withdrwan and thus the Court dismissed the same as withdrawn. 

The attempt of the corporation only shows that instead of addressing the accessibility of roads and buses, it sought to find ways not to implemnet the law of the land citing frivolous excuses for a long time. In earlier matters filed before the Madras HC, the court had clearly said that while it accepted that it may be difficult and costly to make the existing buses accessible, henceeforth all new buses purchased to replenish the public trdansport fleet must be accessible complying with the law and the State happily agreed to it. However, it started putting forth flimsy excuses and did not take any action on improving the road infrastructure, bus boarding platforms and road conditions etc.

Here is the copy of the Affidavit on behalf of Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai) Ltd. embedded below:

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Madras HC | TN Govt. GO to the extent it offends RPWD Act or Provisions of Harmonised Guidelines & SC Judgement in Rajive Raturi case.

Court:          Madras High Court

Bench:         Mr. Munishwar Nath Bhandari, Chief Justice and Mrs. Justice N. Mala. 

Case No.      W.P.No. 5957 of 2021

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

Date of Judgement: 05 July 2022

The writ petition challenges a G.O.  on the ground of violation of Section 41 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. It is also on the ground that when no direction has been given by the Apex Court to have only 10% of the government buses disabled friendly, G.O. indicates only 10% of the total number of Government buses to be low floor buses. 

Further to our previous post dated 22 July 2021 titled Madras HC to Tamil Nadu Govt. - No purchasing buses for public transport, unless they are disabled friendly.

On 26.08,2021, it was again submitted on behalf of the State that even though the legal requirement may not have been complied with, certain other factors need also to be taken into consideration, particularly in the wake of the pandemic and the economic loss suffered by all States, including this State. It is further submitted that though it is imperative that all buses become disabled friendly, but the disabled friendly buses cost much more than ordinary buses and require much better road conditions, particularly within the city limits, than may now be available. 

The bench however, said, "Appropriate measures should have been taken much earlier so that things would not come to such a pass. Though it can be appreciated that the pandemic has caused a severe loss and city roads may still not be viable to receive low platform heavy duty vehicles, there has to be much more acquisition of disabled friendly buses and investment in appropriate roads since the law has been in place for a considerable period of time. At the same time, some latitude may be offered so that the larger public interest is served and the blanket embargo on acquisition of buses does not completely disable the public transport system."

Matter was finally heard and disposed off on 05 July 2022, in following terms:

"the writ petition is disposed of causing interference with G.O.Ms.No.31 dated 24.02.2021 only to the extent that it offends any of the provisions of the Act or Rules or the Harmonised Guidelines issued by the Government of India and directing the respondents to ply all the Government buses, in conformity with the provisions of the Act and Rules and the Harmonised Guidelines quoted above and in the light of the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Rajive Raturi supra. There will be no order as to costs

 Read the Judgement dated 05 July 2022  embedded herein below: