Showing posts with label PIL on accessible public transport. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PIL on accessible public transport. 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.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Madrash HC: Chennai Metro Stations do not meet accessibility mandate of Harmonized Guidelines - argues Disability Activist

Court:         Madrash High Court

Bench:        Admitted by Bench of M.M.SUNDRESH, J. and R.HEMALATHA, J.

Case No.     W.P. No. 11041 of 2020

Case Title:  Vaishnavi Jayakumar  Vs. State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities & CMRL

Case admitted on : 21.08.2020

Next Date: 27.07.2022

Case Brief

This Writ Petition has been filed by our colleague Ms. Vashnavi Jayakumar of Disabilty Rights Alliance, under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying for issuance of Writ of Mandamus Directing the 2nd respondent i.e. Chennai Metrol Rail Ltd.  to forthwith retrofit its existing metro stations to comply with the Harmonised Guidelines and space standards for Barrier Free BuiltEnvironment for persons with Disabilities and Elderly Persons issued by the Ministry of Urban Development in 2016 and to strictly comply with section 41 of the Rights of persons with Disabilities Act 2016 read with Rule 15 of Rights of persons with Disabilities Rules 2017 in the design and Construction of metro Stations under Construction, including stations planned in the future.

The petitioner informed the court that the metro stations constructed by the respondent CMRL were in violation of the law and were not universally accessible. As per the petitioner, the following features needed to be included in the stations:

i. Anti-reflective flooring which contrasts with walls in colour and is non-slip in dry or wet conditions (resistance of 40-70)
ii. Wheelchair accessible ticket counter with audio induction loop for hearing aid users
iii. Accessible kiosks for blind passengers and wheelchair users.
iv. High contrast signage, displays, information tools and controls with multimodal communication
v. Sliding doors for accessible toilets
vi. Universally designed safety and evacuation equipment
vii. Tactile, high contrast way-finding
viii. Accessible parking

Through various interim orders, all the 32 Metro stations of the CMRL were access audited to see if they meet the requirements of the Harmonised Guidelines and Space Standards 2016 and the respondent has been implementing the same to comply with law.

On 11 Sep 2020, the bench of Mr. Justice MM Sundresh and MRs. Justice R. Hemalatha  directed the first respondent to depute his officials to undertake inspection exercise after making inspection to the existing Metro Rail Stations and file a report on the sufficiency of the infrastructure facilities qua disabled persons. A report in this regard will have to be filed on or before 06.10.2020.

On 11 Dec 2020, the learned counsel for the petitioner had drawn the attention of the Court to Rule 15 of the Right of Persons with Disabilities Rules 2017, as well as the order of ad-interim direction dated 28.06.2016 made in WP.No. 38224/2005 titled Rajiv Rajan Vs. CMD, Metropolitan Transport Corporn (Chennai) Ltd.  and submitted that in the light of the mandate cast upon the relevant statutory provisions, it is obligatory rather mandatory upon the 2nd respondent to strictly comply with the said provisions so as to make the Metro Rail Stations as well as travel disabled friendly and prays for appropraite directions.

On 15 June 2022 the counsel for the second respondent/CMRL submitted that the matter may be taken up after six weeks so that they can take further action to comply with the Harmonised Guidelines and space standards for Barrier Free Built Environment for persons with Disabilities and Elderly Persons. It is, however, submitted that except this, necessary action has already been taken, leaving few, which would also be taken up within the period of six weeks.  

In view of the submissions made by CMRL, the respondents have been given time to take necessary action. The matter has been posted to July 27 for further hearing

Watch out this space for the developments.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Madras HC to Tamil Nadu Govt. - No purchasing buses for public transport, unless they are disabled friendly

Court: Madrash High Court, India

Bench: Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy 

Case No(s): W.P. No. 5957 of 2021(Lead Case) along with WP 38224 of 2005 and WP 923 of 2007

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

Date of Hearing: 22 July 2021

Case Brief 

In a push for the rights and independence of people with disabilities in their commute, the Madras high court on Thursday restrained Tamil Nadu from purchasing any new bus to its fleet in the public transport system unless such buses were disabled-friendly as prescribed by law.

The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy passed the interim injunction on a batch of pleas that have been pending before the court for years including from as far back as 2005, seeking universal use of disabled-friendly buses in public tranport fleet. 

One of the writ petitions in the batch i.e. W.P. No. 5957 of 2021 had been filed by cross disability rights advocate, Vaishnavi Jayakumar. She had challenged a Government Order (GO) issued on February 24 this year, for introduction of only 10% of low floor buses and 25% of buses fitted with lift mechanism or any other suitable mode, to provide easy access to wheelchair bound passengers, out of the total buses to be procured for Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai) Limited.

The petitioner had contended that the GO violates Section 41 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016. The legislation requires the State government to take suitable measures to provide facilities for persons with disabilities at bus stops, railway stations and airports and also access to all modes of transport by even retrofitting old modes of transport wherever it was technically feasible.

She said the GO for introducing only 10% of low floor buses and those with lift mechanism was also in violation of Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. “The GO is an arbitrary exercise of power by the State. It is not only in complete violation of the rights of persons with disabilities but also contumacious, since it violates several judicial orders,” she said.

The petitioner had sought to restrain the state from acquiring any further bus unless it conforms to the requirements of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules, 2017 and under the latter, Rule 15 in particular. Rule 15 mandates that every establishment complies with the specified standard as indicated in a notification issued by the Government of India on September 20, 2016.

Advocate General R Shunmugasundaram said the government was purchasing disabled-friendly buses in phases because the roads were in bad shape and they would damage the low-floored buses.

Advocate Rita Chandrasekar, representing Metropolitan Transport Corporation, said the low floor buses cost ₹58 lakh each as against ₹26 lakh for regular buses and hence there was a delay in purchasing such buses.

The state's submission that low-floor buses were expensive and would be damaged by bad roads was rejected. The state has been submitting excuses of certain practical difficulties, particularly in finding resources not only to acquire the more expensive buses but also to create the road infrastructure required for such sophisticated buses. It sought more time to indicate a roadmap.

Rejecting their submissions, the bench in its order said, "In view of the mandate of the statute, read with the Rules framed thereunder and the notification published in accordance therewith, there may be no room to manoeuvre and little scope for the court to delay the implementation of the policy as reflected in the statute and the laws made thereunder.

The court further said in its order, "the State seeks time to indicate a road-map. However, it is necessary that the State be restrained from acquiring any further bus for the public transport system which does not conform to the specifications indicated in the notification of September 20, 2016 referred to above. In other words, the State will not acquire any new bus for use thereof as part of the public transport system unless such bus meets the standards indicated in the notification of September 20, 2016".

Read the interim order dated 22 Jul 2021, embedded below: