The Supreme Court today directed the Union of India and the Center for Disability Studies at NALSAR University of Law to put together a detailed report, in alignment with the guidelines of the Accessible India campaign, covering various steps, to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities at the places like central and state government buildings, airports, railway stations, public transport carriers as well as easy accessibility of government websites, public documents, and the broader Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem.

The Bench, consisting of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra, was dealing with a Public Interest Litigation that sought the effective implementation of Sections 44 and 45 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act and compliance with the Apex Court's 2017 Judgment, by which sweeping directions aimed at making the country’s physical infrastructure accessible to the blind were issued.

In January 2019, when the matter was last taken up, the Apex Court noted that most of the States and Union Territories did not provide plans for accessibility in built environments, transportation systems, and information and communication services as was directed in 2017's Judgement. The Court took 'strong exception to the lacklustre attitude' and noted that the indifferent attitude of the States and the Union Territories shows that they are not serious about complying with the directions contained in the judgment.

However, today, appearing for the Petitioner, Advocate Mugdha apprised the Court that the Central Government, States and Union Territories have filed the new affidavits but the timelines specified in those affidavits have not been adhered to, and there has been minimal progress in fulfilling the directives. Mugdha stated, "NALSAR has the wherewithal and they have done the exercise once. In fact, after the directions on 15th January 2019, fresh affidavits came to be filed but even the timelines suggested in the affidavit were not complied with."

She further added, "Milords, they say audits have been done and buildings have been identified but what has happened after that, those affidavits don't tell us."

The CJI replied, "Should we ask them to file the updated positions on affidavits and then ask the Center for Disability Studies at NALSAR University of Law to go into it?". However, the Petitioner informed that NALSAR has the previous reports and they have carried out similar exercises in the past.

Accordingly, the Court ordered, "Following the decision of this Court reported in Rajive Raturi Versus Union Of India And Others, several orders have been passed from time to time including on January 15, 2019 recording the poor progress which has been made by the Union, States and Union territories in implementing the provisions of Sections 44 and 45 of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 as well as the direction of this Court. On 15 January 2019, merely 4 years ago this court had taken strong exception to the manner in which its directions were being implemented. Though affidavits have been filed thereafter, it is necessary that a comprehensive exercise is carried out at this stage to assess the situation on the ground."

Continuing, the Court ordered, "We accordingly direct the Center for Disability Studies at NALSAR University of Law and Union of India to submit a report on to the steps required to be taken in accordance with the guidelines of the accessible India campaign to inter-alia make all the central and State Government buildings, airports and railway stations, as well as public transport carriers, Government websites and public documents and the ICT Ecosystem fully accessible to person with disabilities. This report shall be complied with and presented to the Court within a period of 6 months. Liberty is granted to learned counsel for the Petitioner to apply for listing of the proceedings after the report by NALSAR is presented."

The Court also directed, "Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities shall cooperate with NALSAR by rendering all logistical assistance as required."

Cause Title: Rajive Raturi Versus Union Of India And Others [W.P.(C) No. 000243 / 2005]