The Bombay High Court has taken suo motu (on its own) cognizance of “inaccessibility” of footpaths to the differently abled in the city owing to recently installed bollards.
The division bench comprising Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor, on September 29, issued notice to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Advocate Jamshed Mistry, last week, mentioned an email sent to him by Karan Shah who is differently abled. According to the email, Shah was wheelchair bound since birth due to Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type III.
The email highlighted that the recent installation of poles/bollards at the entrance of footpaths in the Mumbai, though installed with a salutary objective of making the footpaths safer and more conducive for those having to use wheelchairs, has in fact had the adverse effect since they have rendered footpaths inaccessible.
"It feels like a mockery when wheelchair users like myself cannot navigate them"
“They claim that these actions are meant to make footpaths more accessible for people with disabilities, but in reality, it feels like a mockery when wheelchair users like myself cannot navigate them. Bikes, scooters, humans can go through those poles, but a wheelchair user can't,” Shah said in the email.
It added that: “The BMC & the government of Maharashtra have used our name, the disabled community name many times and have made false promises to all of us for years. We are not yet seeing a disabled friendly Mumbai.” He had attached a picture of himself on a wheelchair trying to access a footpath with bollards.
After going through the picture, the high court noted in its order: “One of the photographs depicts that the distance between the poles is so little that it makes it impossible for the wheelchair to pass through. The end result is that even though these poles/bollards have been installed to ensure inter-alia that the footpaths are safer and more conducive to use for those who are differently abled and/or those having to use wheelchairs, but in fact, they cannot.”
Mistry appointed as amicus curiae
“Given this, we find it appropriate to take Suo Moto cognizance of the grievance raised by Mr. Karan Sunil Shah in the said email,” the court said. It appointed Mistry as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist in the matter. The HC has kept the matter for hearing on October 18, 2023.