The Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi government to carry out a 'social disability audit' in the city, saying that freedom of movement has to be honoured and assured to those with disability in every possible way and it cannot be restrained by lack of civic amenities.
Justice Najmi Waziri stated that the non-availability of requisite enabling infrastructure is glaring throughout the city, which violates Article 21 of the Constitution, and asked the Delhi chief secretary to appoint an officer of a rank not lower than the director to undertake the audit within six weeks.
The Court hoped that in three months, "streets not less than two kilometres each in the south, east, north, west and central regions will be identified, and made ready, in terms of the social disability audit".
The Judge said that it would be open to the Delhi government to take the assistance of the School of Planning and Architecture and clarified that all agencies who provide public facilities, such as DTC, DMRC, Railways, airports authority, etc., shall assist and coordinate with the designated officer in the process.
"The practical way forward would be that a Nodal Officer be appointed by the Department of Social Welfare, GNCTD (Delhi government). Let an officer of a rank not lower than the Director be appointed by the Chief Secretary for enabling persons with requisite facilities... The said officer will be appointed in a week of receipt of this order, she/he shall ensure that a Social Disability Audit is carried out, preferably within six weeks," the Court stated in its order dated December 16.
"All agencies shall endeavour to respect the dignity and individual autonomy of persons with disabilities. It needs to be borne in mind that this exercise is necessary and needs to be carried out in terms of objectives and context of the enactment of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016," said the Court.
It further directed each public agency to appoint a senior officer not below the rank of the Executive Engineer to assist and coordinate with the designated officer.
The Court was hearing a plea by a woman who was permanently debilitated below the waist when she was a school-going girl.
The Court noted that the petitioner was now inconvenienced or unable to use footpaths, narrow streets, and transportation facilities such bus or metro as she was unable to optimally use her wheelchair to access public transportation or wheel herself out of her residence onto a footpath.
"A part of the compensation provided to the petitioner under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, would be meaningless, if the public infrastructure in the city limit her movement," the Court said.
"The non-availability of requisite and enabling infrastructure for persons with disability is glaring and apparent throughout the city. It is also a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Freedom of movement has to be honoured and assured in every way possible, it cannot be restrained by lack of civic amenities," the Court observed.
The Court noted that while the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) did robustly assist the petitioner in an earlier exercise to facilitate her travel from her residence to Connaught Place and back, ordinarily, women personnel from the Corporation were not available for such assistance.
The Court stated that it hoped that the DMRC would ensure due assistance to the petitioner through lady members at the metro station.
The matter has been adjourned to February.
With PTI inputs