The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), on Wednesday, informed the Bombay High Court that it will rectify within three months the discrepancies in the distance between bollards on footpaths which make footpaths inaccessible to the differently abled person and senior citizens on wheelchairs.
The court was hearing a suo motu (on its own) cognisance taken by the court after it received an email from wheelchair-bound Karan Shah, 25, highlighting the inaccessibility of footpaths, by people similarly placed as him, due to closely placed bollards.
BMC counsel Anil Singh informed a bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor that the civic body has completed a survey of footpaths under their jurisdiction in all the 24 wards in the city. They found discrepancies on several footpaths and communication has been sent to officers concerned of the respective wards to take necessary action.
There is a Universal policy chalked out by the Central government which specifies a certain distance between two bollards to make footpaths accessible for wheelchair-bound people, Singh said. He sought three months’ time for the rectification.
The court noted in its order that the Centre had formulated a “Universal footpath policy dated May 26, 2023, which embodies in itself various measures to be taken for making the footpaths easily accessible to all, including differently abled persons and old persons”.
“The Court appreciates the efforts of the Corporation and expects that within three months, the discrepancies in relation to the bollards shall be removed on the footpaths within the territorial limits of the Corporation,” the bench added.
Advocate Jamshed Mistry, who was appointed as amicus curiae (friend of court), pointed out that the state government is required to constitute a State Advisory Board on disability under the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The Act casts duties and entrusts certain functions on the said Board including the functions relating to giving advice to the State Government on policies, programmes, legislation and projects with respect to disability.
The bench has asked the Government Pleader PP Kakade to enquire whether such a Board has been constituted by the state. “...and if it is so, as to whether the Board has taken any steps to ensure easy access to the persons with disabilities to footpaths in the city of Mumbai,” the bench added.
Hearing on March 12
The bench has asked Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to be added as respondents to the PIL considering that certain footpaths fall on roads which are under their respective jurisdiction and they would have to rectify the discrepancies regarding distance between bollards.
The HC has kept the matter for hearing on March 12.