Make all public buildings in T.N. differently abled-friendly within a year, HC tells State government

By Legal Correspondent

The Madras High Court on Monday directed the State government to make sure that all new as well as existing public buildings comply with the Harmonised Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier-Free Built Environment for Persons with Disability and Elderly Persons issued by the Union Ministry of Urban Development in 2016.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu ordered that the public buildings must be made differently abled-friendly within a year failing which government officials concerned might be proceeded against. The orders were passed on a public interest litigation petition filed by visually challenged advocate M. Karpagam through her counsel R. Prabhakaran.

The judges recorded the submission of State Government Pleader P. Muthukumar that the harmonised guidelines, for making public buildings easily accessible to the differently abled as well as the elderly people, were issued by the Centre following a statutory obligation cast upon the government under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016.

The Act required all existing and new public buildings to be made differently abled-friendly within five years from the date when the law would come into force. Since the law came into force only on April 19, 2017, the five-year deadline would come to an end on June 15, 2022, the SGP said and assured the court that steps were afoot to adhere to the deadline.

The Director for the welfare of the differently abled Johny Tom Varghese had already filed a status report stating that only 54% of the public buildings in the State were differently abled friendly as of now and that measures were being taken in the right direction to retrofit the existing buildings so that they comply with the harmonised guidelines issued by the Centre.

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