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SC pulls up Centre on public places not being disabled-friendly

New Delhi, July 25: The Supreme Court Wednesday pulled up the Centre over non-compliance of its last year’s verdict on providing safe access to transportation, buildings and public places to differently-abled persons and said that the government has to follow the law and its order.

The top court had on December 15 last year said that the right to dignity, which is ensured in the constitutional set up for every citizen, applies with much more vigour in cases of persons suffering from disability and it was the duty of the state and public authorities to lay down proper norms in this regard.

 

It also expressed annoyance over the states not complying with its order and warned that respective chief secretaries will be summoned to explain the delay.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan asked the Centre to file a detailed reply in four weeks on the steps taken so far and the timeline to comply with the direction of the court.

“Everything we said in the judgement of December 15, 2017, already existed in the statute. It is not something which is a creation of court. It was your (Centre) law and we just asked you to comply with it. It is your job.

“The government has to tell us the deadline for complying with the directions of the court. We are not running the government. You have to comply with the directions and the law,” the bench said.

It said that the deadline set by the Accessible India Campaign (AIC), to make 20-50 important state government buildings in 50 cities fully accessible, has not been met and all that was done is identification and audit of the buildings.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, said that several of court’s direction has been complied with and the government will file an affidavit bringing the exact position before the court.

Advocate Rajan Mani, appearing for petitioner Rajiv Raturi, said that court had passed 11 directions, but only the basic things have been done and most of the directions are yet to be complied with.

He said that states like Assam, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh and Dadar and Nagar Haveli have not even identified the buildings.

The bench asked the counsel for Assam and other states and Union territories to file a detailed affidavit in four weeks on the steps taken so far, and warned that it may call chief secretaries to explain the delay in complying with the directions.

The bench fixed the matter for further hearing on September 5.

The top court, in a fresh interlocutory application seeking to make judiciary disabled-friendly, especially for visually impaired people, issued notices to the registrar generals of all the high courts and the secretary general of the Supreme Court.

The apex court had on December 15 last year passed 11 directions which include making public institutions, transport and educational institutions disabled-friendly.

The top court passed a slew of directions, including all government buildings providing any services to the public be made fully accessible to differently-abled persons by June next year as per provision of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

On the issue of making 50 per cent of all the government buildings in the national capital and all state capitals fully-accessible by December this year, the court said though deadline for identifying such buildings was fixed as February 28 this year, only seven states have done this as per a status report of August this year.

It had directed the remaining states to identify the buildings by February 28 this year and said that it is made clear that no further time on this behalf shall be granted.

As deadline for retrofitting is concerned, the work should be completed by December this year, the court had said.

It also directed the states to identify 10 most important cities or towns and complete the accessibility audit of 50 per cent of government buildings at these places by February 28 and complete the retrofitting work by December next year.