GUWAHATI, Sept 3 - In a significant bid to ensure a barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities, the Court of Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Assam has directed the Guwahati Development Department (GDD) to ensure that the ‘Harmonised Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Built Environment for Disabled and Elderly’ persons are included in the amended Guwahati Building Construction (Regulation) Bye Laws, 2014 and that the process of notification of the amended bye laws is completed within the next four months.
In two separate orders, the court has also asked the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) and the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) to furnish documental evidences in support of their claims regarding implementation of the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016, in regard to granting building permission as well as issuing no objection and occupancy certificates for the buildings constructed in Guwahati.
It needs mention here that Court of Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Assam has been vested with powers of a ‘civil court’ under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016.
The Commissioner for PwD, who has issued showcause notices to the civic authorities for their wilful contravention of provisions of the RPwD Act, noted that two years have elapsed since the Act was notified and hence no further delay would be acceptable for adoption of the harmonised guidelines issued by the Government of India, and notified under Rule 15 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules, 2017, in pursuance of Section 40 of the RPwD Act 2016.
In its showcause notices, the Commissioner had asked both the authorities as to why a fine up to Rs 5 lakh, shall not be imposed on them for wilful contravention of the Act.
The court has also directed the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) to submit two separate lists, one each for the years 2017-18 and 2018-19, showing the no objection certificates and permits as well as occupancy certificates issued to commercial buildings, malls, cinema halls, hospitals, government buildings and schools in Guwahati city, along with the names of the builders or owners and the location of the properties, within one month from the date of its order without fail.
In a separate order, it asked the GMDA to furnish the reports relating to inspections undertaken by it in major commercial buildings during 2017-18 and 2018-19 within a month.
It may be noted that the GMDA in its reply to the showcause notice, had mentioned that the authority undertakes periodical inspections for compliance with the RPwD Act in major commercial buildings under its jurisdiction.
In its reply the GMDA had also mentioned that the provision of creating a barrier-free environment for differently able persons already exists in the Guwahati Building Construction (Regulation) Bye Laws 2014. It further mentioned that the same bye laws are in the process of being amended and it is proposed to give due reference to the harmonised guidelines and space standards for barrier-free environment for differently able persons.
Both GMC and GMDA went on to explain that there was no wilful contravention of the provisions of the RPwD Act. Both the authorities have also requested the Court of Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Assam to withdraw the notices given to them and drop the proceedings intended against them.