Madras High Court: In a case filed by the petitioner seeking a direction to the respondents to take necessary steps to ensure the easy accessibility of all the tourist places, especially Coutrallam Water Falls in Tirunelveli, State of Tamil Nadu, for the persons with disability, in accordance with Section 29 under Chapter V of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, a Division Bench of R. Mahadevan and J. Sathya Narayana Prasad JJ., directs the Government to devise a programme in consultation with expert bodies, which includes persons with disabilities, to make tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu accessible for the disabled in accordance with the standards of accessibility as formulated under Section 40 of the RPwD Act and other applicable guidelines and prepare and publish a travel guide of disability-friendly and accessible tourist destinations.
The petitioner is a physically challenged person, as a result of which, he could walk only with the help of two auxiliary crutches. One day, he got a chance to visit Coutrallam in Tirunelveli District, where his friends had enjoyed in the water falls after therapeutic body massage with herbal oil. His body muscle required such a therapeutic oil bath in the water falls to get relief from discomfort caused by using crutches, but owing to his disablement, he was unable to access. Aggrieved by this, instant petition was filed.
The Court noted that the accessibility, effective participation and inclusion in the society are few of the rights for empowerment of persons with disabilities and the same have to be ensured to them, by the Government and local authorities as per law.
In Vikash Kumar v. Union Public Service Commission, Civil Appeal No.273 of 2021 dated 11-02-2021, the Court held that ensuring a life of equal dignity, worth and non-discrimination along with reasonable accommodation necessitates positive obligation on the State and private parties to provide additional support to persons with disabilities to facilitate their full and equal participation in society.
The Court stated that the ideals of equality, dignity, worth and non-discrimination along with the principles of reasonable accommodation inspire the constitutional bulwark for enforcement of equality before the law, equal protection of law as well as equality of status and opportunity to the disabled. However, it is necessary that the Government and local authorities operationalize the same for fullest enjoyment of the rights of the persons with disabilities.
The Court remarked “State of Kerala has initiated ‘Barrier-Free Kerala Tourism’ to initiate steps in transforming tourist destinations and accommodation units disabled friendly, by developing guidelines in consultation with the stakeholders. Such initiative was also recognized at international level as an emerging global destination by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.”
The Court opined that that accessible tourism is integral for equal participation of persons with disabilities in recreation and cultural life, like the other persons. It also applies to the senior citizens and elderly persons to experience and participate fully in their older years.
Thus, the Court directed the Government to devise a programme in consultation with expert bodies, which includes persons with disabilities, to make tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu accessible for the disabled in accordance with the standards of accessibility as formulated under section 40 of the RPwD Act and other applicable guidelines and prepare and publish a travel guide of disability-friendly and accessible tourist destinations.
[K R Raja v. State of Tamil Nadu, 2022 SCC OnLine Mad 5473, decided on 25-11-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner: Mr. R. Alagumani;
For Respondents: Mr. P. Thilak Kumar;
Government Pleader for R1 & R2;
No appearance for R3.
*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.