Madras HC prevents state from buying buses that are not disabled-friendly

The Madras High Court on Thursday restrained the Tamil Nadu government from purchasing buses for public transport unless they are disabled- friendly.

A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy issued the interim injunction on a batch of cases pending in the court for long, seeking universal use of disabled-friendly buses.

Advocate General R. Shanmughasundaram said that the government is purchasing disabled-friendly buses in phases as the poor condition of the roads would damage low-floor buses. Advocate Rita Chandrashekhar, representing the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai) Ltd, said that the low-floor buses cost Rs 58 lakh while the regular buses cost Rs 26 lakh and hence, there was a delay in purchasing of buses.

The bench, however, rejected the contentions, saying that the government cannot give any kind of excuses as it was bound to implement the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016 and the rules framed thereunder.

One of the writ petitioners, disability rights advocate Vaishnavi Jaikumar, contended that the February 24 Government Order violates Section 41 of the Act, which requires the government to take suitable measures to provide access to persons with disabilities at bus stops, railway stations, airports to all modes of transport by even retrofitting old modes of transport, wherever it was feasible.

The state government order was for introduction of only 10 per cent low floor buses and 25 per cent buses fitted with lift mechanism or any other mode to provide easy access to wheelchair-bound passengers out of the total buses to be procured by the transport corporation.