SC warns of contempt action on Disabilities Act

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday warned of contempt proceedings against states which fail to provide sufficient special access facilities for physically challenged persons as mandated under the Persons with Disabilities Act.

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia, justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar also sought an explanation from the Centre within four weeks as to whether Central Committee and State level committees have been set up for implementing the Act and details vis-a-vis disbursal of funds, if any.

The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act was enacted in 1995.

The apex court gave the warning after senior counsel Colin Gonzalves for petitioner Rajiv Raturi in a PIL complained that though several guidelines have been framed under the Act for the benefit of physically challenged persons, neither the Centre nor the states showed interest in implementing the same.

He pointed out that the National Building Code and the Public Works Department have framed several guidelines for creating special facilities for disabled persons at public places like railway stations, bus terminus, airports, trains, buses and aircraft but till date no such facility has been created.

"We make it clear that if the states do not enforce the National Building Code of India as well as the guidelines issued by the Central Public Works Department, we would be taking contempt proceedings, for which the petitioner(s) could move before this court," the bench said in an order.

The apex court said it was passing the order "strictly based" on the provisions of the Act.

It said "on going through the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, prima facie, we are satisfied that several important statutory duties have remained non-compliant till date.

"We are not even sure as to whether the Central Co-ordination Committee has been duly constituted under Section 3 by the central government as provided in the 1995 Act," the bench said.

The apex court also sought information from the Centre on the following three issues:

1. whether the Central Coordination Committee has been constituted under Section 3 of the 1995 Act. If not, by what time it would be constituted.

2. If Central Co-ordination Committee has been constituted, whether such Committee has given directions/guidelines to the State Coordination Committees under the 1995 Act.

3. Whether any funds have been disbursed to the State Co-ordination Committees. If so, whether utilisation certificates have been issued by the state government from time to time.

Directing the Centre to file an affidavit on the question, the bench posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks.

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