The Delhi High Court has rapped the AAP government for "not taking a single step for ensuring accessible transport to disabled persons in the national capital and restrained it from procuring standard-floor buses as it impedes their mobility.
A bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar observed that the Delhi government and the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) were treating the disabled as "non-existent".
The high court also made it clear that it was passing an interim order and it would take a final view on the matter after hearing all parties.
"Procuring buses which are inaccessible to the disabled infracts the mandate of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and the imperative and repeated directions of the Supreme Court not only is completely impermissible but also reflects callous apathy and gross indifference to environmental degradation as well as infringement of rights of the citizens of Delhi, under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, to a clean and healthy environment," the bench said.
The high court refused to agree with the AAP government's submission that only ten percent of the buses have to be disabled friendly and said that it shows that "they are bent upon treating the disabled as non-existent, or, in any case not having any rights.
"The respondents have not even conceptualized, let alone, bothered to take a single step toward ensuring accessible transport in Delhi. This submission in fact underlines the reluctance of the respondents to acquire accessible transport and to comply with the law," the court said.
The high court said the decision of the AAP government to go ahead for standard floor buses was in complete violation of the "Harmonious Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Built Environment for Persons with Disabilities and Elder Persons" and also violates of the right to road safety of the city residents.
"The decision to press and go ahead for standard floor buses rests on the consideration that since 2011, no public transport bus tender has been awarded by Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi.
"This only reflects the lack of concern that the public transport system. Such negligence can nowhere enable an authority to ignore the right to equality and non-discrimination of persons with disability as well as elder persons," the bench said while posting the matter for hearing on July 16.
The high court was hearing PILs moved by Nipun Malhotra, who suffers from a locomotor disability, challenging the tenders for standard floor buses.
In his first PIL, Malhotra challenged the Delhi government's decision of last year to procure 2,000 standard floor buses at a cost of Rs 300 crore.
Thereafter, he moved a second PIL against a second tender floated in March this year by the DTC and the Delhi government to procure 1,000 standard floor buses.
In his fresh plea, he has contended that the authorities have "completely failed to take into account the issues which would be faced by the disabled and elderly population, when it comes to basic access to public transport".
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