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Plea to make buildings disabled friendly or face fine reaches Bombay High Court

Fighting for the quality of life of disabled persons, well-known interior designer and socialite Nisha Jamvwal and advocate Abha Singh have approached the Bombay high court over the lack of wheelchair access and other facilities for them in buildings in Mumbai, including five-star hotels, malls, theatres, restaurants and other commercial premises.

A division bench of Justices Naresh Patil and Girish Kulkarni on Tuesday directed the Maharashtra government and the BMC to spell out their stand in three weeks. “The law has to be implemented,” said the judges.

Advocate Abha Singh said the Development Control Regulations and other laws make it mandatory for public and commercial buildings to be disabled-friendly. The disabilities Act, in fact, empowers civic authorities to deny completion certificates to establishments if they fail to provide such facilities. “Establishments in Mumbai have been issued completion certificates and are allowed to function despite not having ramps or accessible bathrooms,” she said.

Maharashtra advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni confirmed that the building code did require special amenities to be provided for persons with disabilities.

Singh told the court that Jamvwal and a family member, who uses a wheelchair due to spinal injury, face problems every time they visit a restaurant or theatre. The petitioners submitted a list of 15 popular city buildings that do not provide basic facilities like ramps and accessible toilets. They asked that establishments and toilets should have doors at least 30 inches wide to let wheelchairs pass.

The petitioners claimed that they had approached several government and private establishments to request construction of ramps and other facilities so that persons with disabilities could access them without any help and experience independence, self-reliance and self-sufficiency. The requests were disregarded, the petition said.

“The fundamental concern of disabled persons is safe and free accessibility to footpaths, accessibility to roads, buildings — private or government — and transport. Internationally acceptable mandatory aspects of physical accessibility are essential to ensure safety, independence, affordability and easy navigation without extraordinary efforts to avail rudimentary facilities,” the petition said.

The petitioners urged the court to direct public and private establishments across the state to instal ramps and wheelchairfriendly toilets within three months and impose a penalty on places that do not comply. They also sought directions to the government to make public transport easily accessible for persons with disabilities.

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