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Madras HC issues Directions to Make Public Transport Disabled Friendly

7 min read

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate

Published on: 11 May 2023 at 22:52 IST

While making it absolutely clear that ‘After all, the world is theirs too’, the Madras High Court in a most learned, laudable, landmark, logical and latest judgment titled Vaishnavi Jayakumar v The State of Tamil Nadu in Writ Petition No. 29914 of 2022 and Sub Application No. 774 of 2022 and pronounced on April 18, 2023 in a valiant attempt to make public transport in the state accessible to all including persons with disabilities, aged persons, pregnant women and children has issued a slew of extremely commendable directions to the State particularly the transport department which constitutes the “real crown” of this notable judgment! The Court also modified a tender floated by the transport department to ensure that more low-floor buses are procured by the State.

It must be mentioned that the Bench of Acting Chief Justice Hon’ble Mr T Raja and Hon’ble Mr Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy who authored this noteworthy judgment passed these most commendable directions in a public interest litigation that was filed by Vaishnavi Jayakumar challenging the tender that was floated by the Road Transport Department for procuring 1107 High Floor buses.

At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “The writ petition is filed challenging the tender floated by the respondents viz., the State of Tamil Nadu and the Institute of Road Transport, Chennai, for procurement of 1107 Type I Buses of floor height 900 mm. The pro bono publico is espousing the cause of differently-abled persons who are using wheel-chair, as also, senior citizens and other persons with difficulties, who cannot use the public transport if these high floor buses are permitted to be procured.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “It is the case of the petitioners that the matter of access to transportation for the differently-abled is under consideration for quite a long period of time and ultimately, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Rajive Rathuri vs. Union of India, 2018(2) SCC 413, considered the matter in detail and in paragraph 34.7, held “all the Government buses should be disabled friendly and in accordance with the harmonised guidelines”.

The Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India, 2021, framed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban affairs, Government of India, clearly stipulates that buses should be of low floor. This apart, there has been earlier orders of this Court in respect of State of Tamil Nadu itself. By order dated 05.07.2022 in WP No.29914 of 2022 etc, this Court, after considering the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Rajive Rathuri, quashed the earlier G.O.Ms.No.31 dated 24.02.2021, holding that a total number of 10% of the buses shall be disabled friendly and directed the respondents to ply all the Government buses in conformity with the provisions of the Act and Rules and the harmonised guidelines in the light of the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Rajive Rathuri.”

While continuing in the same vein, the Bench then observes in para 3 that, “Further, there was also one more round of litigation as early as in the year 2005 in WP No.38224 of 2005 and from then on, even though repeated directions have been given to purchase low floor buses and make the public transport accessible to persons who are differently-abled, the factual position on date is that there are no low floor buses at all plying in the city of Chennai.

Therefore, when the State is obliged to convert all its buses compliant of the above directions, it goes without saying that the new buses which are to be procured should be of low floor only. Apart from the writ petitioner, several other interested parties had also filed applications to implead and the same were allowed and they all supported the case of the writ petitioner.”

The Order

Most significantly, most remarkably and most forthrightly, the Bench then minces just no words whatsoever to lay bare what is then encapsulated in para 13 wherein it is postulated that, “Therefore, these writ petitions are disposed of with the following directions:

(i)   The respondents can proceed ahead with the impugned tender IRT Tender No.16/SR-Fully Built Bus/CP/IRT/2022 dated 10.10.2022, but however, shall only procure 950 buses of Type I Buses of floor height 900 mm;

(ii)  Within two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order, they shall also issue a fresh tender to procure 157 low floor buses and the said tender shall also be processed simultaneously;

(iii) The procurement of the 342 low floor buses both electric and diesel shall also be processed and expedited, so that the said fleet are also in place simultaneously with these high floor buses;

(iv) The respondents and the respective transport corporations in the city of Chennai and other cities shall, with due application of mind, by forming a committee of officials, one from the Transport Department, one from the Institute of Road Transport, one from the respective Metropolitan Transport Corporation and one representative from the differently-abled organisations, shall, with due consultations of experts, decide upon the routes in which these low floor buses shall be plied, their timings, etc. taking into account the utmost benefit to the most number of differently-abled persons as the primary objective;

(v)     In respect of each metropolitan city of Chennai, Coimbatore, Trichy, Madurai etc. mobile applications shall also be developed which, in real time, should indicate the movement of these low floor buses for the differently-abled persons to come to the bus stop and board the buses by properly planning their time;

(vi) As directed by this Court in the earlier directions, the respective Municipal Corporations shall strive to continuously improve the quality of the roads, their maneuvering capacity and shall scientifically lay the bumps/speed breakers enabling the smooth running of these low floor buses;

(vii) The bus stops should be scientifically designed to suit the requirements of the differently-abled and henceforth, any development or reconstruction or repairing or improvement in any of the bus stops should include and focus in making it differently-abled friendly, with due facility for the wheel chair to go into the low floor bus, directly from the platform;

(viii) Special training should be imparted to the drivers and conductors of these low floor buses, firstly to be patient enough to stop the bus and assist the persons who are differently-abled/wheel chair bound commuters to get in and alight from the buses from their appropriate destinations;

(ix)    It is made clear that the permission to purchase the high floor buses is granted by this order only as an exception and all endeavour should be made to purchase only low floor buses in the ensuing years, in respect of the fleet which are to be run within the cities and its suburbs;

(x)    A copy of these directions could be widely circulated to all the automobile manufacturers and to such organisations, to create awareness that there will be market only for the low floor buses in future, so that there will be more and more players in the field, so as to supply low floor buses, as per the requirements of the State.”

For sake of clarity, the Bench clarifies in para 14 that, “There will be no order as to costs. Consequently, WMP No.29308 of 2022 is closed.”

Further, the Bench observes in para 15 that, “Sub application No.774 of 2022 filed to accept the cause title as respondent in Contempt Diary No.127446/2022 is closed in view of the order passed in the writ petition.”

In addition, the Bench mentions in para 16 that, “WMP No.11520 of 2023 to reopen the proceedings in the writ petition is closed.”

 The Epilogue 

Finally, the Bench then concludes so very aptly by hastening to add in para 17 that, “We place on record our appreciation to the petitioner and the impleaded parties as well as Mr. Yogeswaran, learned counsel for the petitioner, Mr. P.S.Raman, learned Senior Counsel, Mr. J.Ravindran, learned Additional Advocate-General, Mr. Bharatwaj, Mr. Swaroop, learned counsel; Dr. Chelliah, learned Senior Counsel, Mr. Ravi Anandapadmanabhan, learned Senior Counsel, Mr. Elephant Rajendran, learned counsel for their valuable services in not only placing the legal position before this Court but in approaching the issue in a pragmatic manner to take the first step ahead to make public transport in the city of Chennai and other cities disabled friendly.

After all, the world is theirs too!!”  


In conclusion, it may well be said that there definitely cannot be any quibbling with what the Madras High Court has held so very elegantly, eloquently and effectively in this leading case. In fact, it must be underscored that the most commendable, cogent and convincing directions that have been issued by the Madras High Court to make public transport disabled friendly must be implemented most promptly so that those for whom it is meant and who are in dire need of the same don’t have to undergo all sorts of huge difficulties in going from one place to another.

It brooks no more delay anymore now as implementing it is in the paramount interest for those for whom it is meant and who must no longer be deprived of the same.