Showing posts with label Inaccessible Judiciary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Inaccessible Judiciary. Show all posts

Sunday, May 8, 2022

67 per cent Indian Court Complexes report they are not accessible to Persons with Disabilities.

 Dear colleagues,

The Hon'ble Supreme Court (SC) directions on 15th Dec 2017 came as a shot in arm for the efforts to make public places and builidngs accessible for persons with disabilities. But when the Supreme Court Registry compiled a report (based on the self reporting by the courts and not based on access audits by professional access auditors), that indicates only 33% court complexes claiming to be accessible and a whopping 67% court complexes are still defying the law of the land to allow equal participation and access to justice for persons with disabilities and those with age related impairments.

On January 15, 2019, Hon'ble SC had said, "More than a year has passed since the judgment was delivered. The indifferent attitude of the States and the Union Territories shows that they are not serious in complying with the directions contained in the judgment... We take strong exception to the lackluster attitude." It had given three weeks to the states and Union Terriroties (UTs) to implement its December 2017 judgment directions.

At a time when an extreme heatwave has gripped the country, judicial officers in 83% of courtrooms are sweating it out to read through bundles of case files and hear heated arguments from lawyers. For, only 17% of courtrooms have air-conditioning facilities as per the SC report. 

But, these are not the only reasons why Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana had vigorously pushed for a state level judicial infrastructure development authority, which fortunately struck a chord with the Chief ministers and the Chief Justices of the High Courts. However, Justice Ramana's proposal for a national level judicial infrastructure development authority has been pegged back for further discussions.

In a communication to the Union government, the CJI had highlighted the abysmal condition of the court complexes across the country. Toilets, essential to ameliorate pressing daily needs of lawyers and litigants, are absent in 16% of the court complexes. As many as 26% of the court complexes have no washroom facilities for women. The condition of existing toilets in most court complexes in semi-urban areas, visited by hundreds of litigants and lawyers, is nauseating.

The other deficiencies in court complexes are equally concerning: 

  • 95% of court complexes are not equipped with even basic medical facilities; 
  • 46% do not have purified drinking water facilities; 
  • 73% of courtrooms do not have computers placed on the judges' dais with video-conferencing facilities; 
  • 68% courtrooms have no separate record rooms, and, 
  • 49% of court complexes have no library.

The states need to focus on the mandate of accessibility in judicial buildings and forums so that not just physical access to amenitiess but websites, filing and pleadings, procedures, litigation could also becomee accessible to people with disabilities- whether as a judicial officer, lawyer, prosecutor, staff, litigant, witness or victim. Access to justice needs to be enssured through a coordinated effort. The Court infrastructure has its unique requirements as the hospital infrastracuture has and the public works departments or the architects, contractors and builders that are engaged for making these provisions needs to have an understanding of accessibility. Similarly the ICT infrastructure reqired at the judicial forums is also equally important that it conforms to the WCAG standards and the accessibility standards on Information and Communication Technology- for which the directions have been passed by the E-Committeee of the Supreme Court to all the High Courts of the Country. It is time to practice inclusion for real inclusion to happen. 

Related article: Times of India 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Court approached to declare Courts Inaccessible in Kenya

Dear Colleagues,

The physical access to public buildings is a major area of concern world over. While many governments have started taking pro-active measures, few are waiting for somebody- generally user groups or NGOs to point out to them that the buildings are inaccessible. While there are less pro-active measures from the governments, the stakeholders are forced to approach various advocacy mechanisms to claim their legitimate right.

The fortunate part is that the Law and the Courts stand by them.  The recent case of Kenya is one good example of how activists and persons with disabilities should use the platform of Courts to move ahead if accessibility is not on the priority list of governments!

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate-Disability Rights, India

An organisation has filed a case seeking to compel the Judiciary to build ramps to allow people with physical disabilities access courtrooms.

The executive director of Kenya Paraplegic Organisation Timothy Wetangula and a police officer who was crippled by a road accident filed the case accusing the Judiciary of failing to recognise the needs of physically disabled litigants.

They want the High Court to declare that the new Milimani Law Courtrooms and The Supreme Court Building in Nairobi are not accessible to persons with disabilities because they only have concrete barriers, stairs and elevations.

Mr Wetangula and Mr Paul Anupa want an order directing that all the courts in Kenya be fitted with ramps to facilitate access for all persons with disabilities.

They contend that they cannot attend the hearing of Mr Anupa's petition as there is no ramp at the Milimani building, making it impossible for persons on wheelchairs or crutches to get to the courtrooms.

As an interim measure, Justice David Majanja of the High Court said he will make administrative arrangements to ensure that Mr Wetangula and Mr Anupa attend the hearing on Wednesday.

The judge gave the directions after lawyer John Chigiti, who is representing the two, told him that the petitioners want to attend the hearing but they cannot access the courtroom.

Mr Anupa has filed a case through the Kenyan Paraplegic Organisation challenging the decision by the Police Commissioner to send him on retirement on medical grounds in 2009.