In an important judgment delivered last month, the Gauhati High Court held that even a private entity has also a duty to ensure that its facilities are friendly to the differently abled. Justice Ujjal Bhuyan also directed the Government to issue General circulars to all Government and private establishments highlighting the salient features of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, and to ensure that public buildings and public facilities and services are accessible by persons with disabilities.
The court was disposing a writ petition filed by Arman Ali, Executive Director, Shishu Sarothi, a Center for Rehabilitation and Training for Multiple Disability. Ali, who himself suffers from Cerebral Palsy, narrated in the petition, his experience, when he tried to avail the facilities in a private Gym named Gold's Gym. The gym informed him that he would be able to avail the gym facilities but some additional amount would be charged as a personal trainer would have to be exclusively provided to him. When he filed writ petition in 2011, the Gym contended that it is not a "State" or "other authority" within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India and that it is purely a private entity and does not discharge any public duty or function. The court, thereafter issued the following directions, while directing the state as well as the Gold Gym, to pay Rs. 50,000 each to Shishu Sarothi. All the officers and employees serving in the Social Welfare Department, Govt. of Assam including in the directorate and at the grass-root level should be undergo training and awareness programmes to sensitise them about the rights of persons with disabilities. Commissioner and Secretary to the Govt. of Assam, Social Welfare Department shall immediately chalk out a detailed programme to give effect to direction No. 1 above and in this regard he may also take the assistance of the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Assam and the Assam State Legal Services Authority.
The departmental Commissioner and Secretary shall also organise awareness and sensitization programmes and campaigns in terms of Section 39 of the 2016 Act in consultation with the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Assam and Assam State Legal Services Authority to ensure that people become aware of the rights of persons with disability and that those rights are protected. Commissioner and Secretary of the Social Welfare Department, Govt. of Assam shall issue general circulars to all Government and private establishments highlighting the salient features of the 2016 Act and to ensure that public buildings and public facilities and services are accessible by persons with disabilities. Such directions or guidelines may be issued within a period of 2 (two) months from the date of receipt of a certified copy of this order.
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