Tamil Nadu

Madras HC gives six weeks to Metro Rail to make its stations barrier-free

Chennai Metro Rail Ltd. (CMRL) on Wednesday informed the Madras High Court that it had substantially completed retrofitting the 32 stations in Phase I project and that it required six weeks time to comply with the mandatory accessibility standards under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016.

Appearing before the first Division Bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice N. Mala, counsel for CMRL Jayesh B. Dolia said all stations that were under construction under Phase II of the project were being built in such a way that they were universally accessible and adhere to the legal requirements.

The submissions were made during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition filed by cross disability rights advocate Vaishnavi Jayakumar in 2020 complaining that the CMRL had not constructed its stations in accordance with the accessibility standards prescribed under the 2016 Act and the statutory rules framed under it.

Although her counsel contested CMRL’s latest claim that substantial compliance of the standards had been made by retrofitting the existing stations, the judges decided to take a call on the issue after granting the six weeks sought by the transport utility to set things right. They said both the counsel could make a visit to the stations thereafter.

In her memo, Ms. Jayakumar said the CMRL stations constructed in Phase I were audited under the Accessible India Campaign of the Centre in 2017 and it was found that all 32 stations had been constructed in violation of the law and that they were not access friendly. Then, the CMRL undertook work to make the stations compliant with the law by July 2017.

Although the stations ought to have been built with universally accessible facilities at the stage of construction itself, even the subsequent undertaking to retrofit them was not fulfilled forcing the petitioner to file the present case. The High Court, on September 11, 2020 directed the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities to audit all the metro stations in Chennai city.

“The audit reports show that none of the 32 stations have been constructed in compliance with the law and are violative of the Harmonized Guidelines, 2016 and the 1998 Central Public Works Department guidelines. The reports state that key features such as ramps, lifts, handrails, ticket counters, tactile pathways and so on were either absent or non compliant or inaccessible,” the memo read.

It went on to state: “They [CMRL] have not constructed a single metro station in compliance with accessibility standards and they are continuing to construct metro stations that do not comply with the law. It is imperative that public infrastructure like metro stations are constructed in strict compliance with the law.

“Metro rail system, if constructed in compliance with the law, will finally ensure barrier free transport to disabled persons. This petition merely seeks that the CMRL comply with the law and makes all the stations compliant with the governing mandatory accessibility standards and new stations are constructed strictly in accordance with the standards.”

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 3:45:12 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/madras-hc-gives-six-weeks-to-metro-rail-to-make-its-stations-barrier-free/article65529955.ece