HC directs Maha govt to check if schools, colleges provide barrier-free access to disabled students

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra government and the Directorate of Education to call for compliance reports from all educational institutes and universities in the state on facilities provided to disabled students.
In an order passed earlier this week, a bench of Justices Naresh Patil and G S Kulkarni said the state must inform the court whether or not all educational institutes across Maharashtra were providing barrier-free access in their buildings to disabled students and staff members.

The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Pune resident Akanksha Kale.
In her plea filed through advocate Satyavrat Joshi, Kale sought that all educational institutes provide barrier-free access and other facilities to disabled students and staff, as mandated in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act.

Kale, who is confined to a wheelchair, had first approached the high court in 2016 against a Pune college after she was unable to attend classes and appear for her exams as the institute did not have disabled-friendly infrastructure.

At that time, another bench of the high court had passed necessary directions to the college concerned, and also directed the state to ensure that all schools and colleges extend appropriate facilities to the disabled.

However, Kale approached the high court again earlier this year, saying that despite provisions of the act and the high court order, not all educational institutes had complied with the requirements.

The Mumbai University’s counsel, advocate Rui Rodrigues, informed the court that there already existed statutory rules mandating that professional colleges, such as medical and engineering institutes, provide barrier-free environment in their buildings.
The professional institutes that did not comply were denied completion and occupation certificates for their buildings, Rodrigues said.
The high court, however, observed that such a requirement must be made mandatory for all educational institutes and not just those providing professional courses.

“The state and the Directorate of Education shall issue instructions to all universities to call for compliance report from all the educational institutions,” the bench said.
“In case any institute already has the occupation certificate but does not provide the mandatory facilities, then the authorities should take necessary steps for creating basic facilities such as ramps, washrooms and barrier-free access for handicapped people in such buildings,” it said.
The high court has sought a report from the state on the compliance reports from educational institutes by August 2.


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