Mumbai: High Court Raps State For Not Striving For Disabled-Friendly Footpaths

Mumbai: High Court Raps State For Not Striving For Disabled-Friendly Footpaths

During the last hearing, the court had asked the government to list the steps taken to provide easy footpath access to the disabled.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Wednesday, March 27, 2024, 11:51 PM IST
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Bombay High Court | File pic

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday rapped the Maharashtra government over the non-functional state advisory board constituted to frame policies under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. It has asked the principal secretary or secretary of the department concerned to file an affidavit within two weeks.

Challenges In Footpath Accessibility For Disabled Notified In HC Hearing

The HC had taken a suo motu (on its own) cognisance of the issue 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. During the last hearing, the court had asked the government to list the steps taken to provide easy footpath access to the disabled.

The government informed a bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor that the board was constituted between 2016 and 2019. However, it does not has any non-official members as contemplated under the Disability Act. Notably, the board has met just twice thus far. On Wednesday, the bench asked, “Why do you make such legislation if it cannot be followed? Is this legislation to be kept in bookshelves?”

HC Criticises State Disability Welfare Department Over Lack Of Board Meetings

Government pleader Purnima Kantharia, on instructions from an officer of the state Disability Welfare department, submitted that just two meetings were held between 2018-19 and no non-official members have been appointed or nominated. Irked, the bench said, “Apart from two meetings, not even a single discussion was held for all these over four years? To activate the statutory board, do you need orders from the court? There is a statutory board which is not meeting even once?” It further reminded that the law mandated that the board must meet at least once every six months.

During the last hearing, the HC had asked the Metropolitan Region Development Authority and the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation to strive for removal of bollards on roads under their limits. While the former agency assured to clear the obstruction in two months, the latter informed that there are only highways under its jurisdiction. Likewise, BMC counsel Anil Singh said that the BMC is working on the issue and the same will be addressed in a few months.

Next Hearing In The Case Scheduled In July

In a similar matter raised by NGO Access To Hope in a public interest litigation, the HC asked the government and the BMC to give details of the steps taken to implement the “Harmonised Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Built Environment, 2021”, related to accessibility to bus stops and terminals in Mumbai for the disabled. The next hearing has been scheduled in July.

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