No new public buildings can come up unless it provides facilities to enable access for persons with disabilities: Madras High Court
5th July, 2021
The Madras High Court reiterated on Monday that no new public buildings can be built, planned, or sanctioned unless they include accessibility features for people with disabilities (M Karpagam v. Commissionerate for the welfare of differently abled and ors). The Court stated that all public buildings, including courts, must provide access in order for those with disabilities to use them. The Court also stated that toilets must be constructed in public facilities that are accessible to people with impairments. The respondents are reminded that "no new public buildings may be constructed, sanctioned, or planned without ensuring toilets and other facilities for persons with disabilities," according to the Court's ruling.
M Karpagam had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) suit before the bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy. Earlier this year, the Court ordered the State to submit a report on how accessible public facilities are to people with disabilities. As a result, the government filed a status report. The Court, however, pointed out on Monday that the report does not state whether structures in Tamil Nadu are accessible to those with impairments. The Court also stated that the relevant authorities, particularly the public works department and its officials, should be familiar with the governing statute (the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016) and the National Building Code in order to ensure that all instructions contained therein are followed without fail. During the hearing, Chief Justice Banerjee also stated that during his trips to lower courts, he had noticed at least two lower court buildings that were not accessible to disabled people. He also stated that he has directed the Principal District Judges to ensure that ramps are erected in all courts. Courts should also include at least one disabled-friendly restroom close to the entrance on the ground level, according to the Chief Justice. On a similar matter, the Court remembered that it had directed the State Transportation Department last month to ensure that no new buses are purchased unless they are wheelchair accessible.