The injunction was issued in a number of long-pending court proceedings calling for universal use of disabled-accessible buses; the state’s claim that low-floor buses are expensive and damaged by poor roads was rejected
The Madras Supreme Court on Thursday banned the state government from adding new buses to its public transport fleet unless the vehicle was disabled-friendly as required by law.
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Judge Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy issued injunctions on a number of long-pending court cases calling for the universal use of disabled-accessible buses.
Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram said the government was ordering handicapped accessible buses at times because the roads were in poor condition and the low-floor buses were being damaged.
Attorney Rita Chandrasekar, who represents Metropolitan Transport Corporation, said the low-floor buses cost 58 lakh each, versus 26 lakh for regular buses, and therefore the purchase of such buses has been delayed.
The court denied their submissions, saying the government could not offer an apology if it was required to implement the provisions of the Disability Rights Act 2016 and the statutory provisions contained therein.
One of the written motions in the batch was submitted by Vaishnavi Jayakumar, a disability rights attorney. It had challenged a Government Ordinance (GO) issued on February 24 of this year, which envisaged the introduction of only 10% of low-floor buses and 25% of buses with a lifting mechanism or other suitable mode to allow easy access for wheelchair-bound passengers. from the total of buses to be procured for Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai) Limited.
The petitioner alleged that the GO violated Section 41 of the 2016 Law on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The law requires the state government to take appropriate measures to provide facilities for people with disabilities at bus stops, train stations and airports, as well as access to all modes of transport, by even retrofitting old modes of transport where technically feasible.
She said the GO also violated Articles 14 (equality before the law) and 21 (right to life) of the constitution because it only introduced 10% low-floor buses and those with an elevator mechanism. “The GO is an arbitrary exercise of power by the state. Not only is it a total violation of the rights of people with disabilities, but it is also disgusting as it violates several court orders, “she said.