The Supreme Court has decided to conduct a comprehensive accessibility audit with an aim to understand the hardships faced by specially abled persons and ensure their better access to the justice system.
On International Day of Persons with Disabilities which is observed on December 3 every year, Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud constituted a Supreme Court Committee on Accessibility chaired by a sitting judge.
In a statement, the Supreme Court said the committee will be headed by Justice S Ravindra Bhat, who has been asked to conduct an accessibility audit extending to both physical as well as technology accessibility.
"The committee has also been tasked to prepare and release a questionnaire for persons with disabilities, who visit the Supreme Court premises to assess the nature and extent of the problems they face," it said, adding that inputs will also be sought by the committee from Supreme Court advocates, litigants and interns.
The committee will also include a professor from the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru.
It will prepare a report which contains the results of the audit and survey and will recommend proposals geared towards removing barriers to access.
The statement released by the apex court said that a differently abled person employed at the Supreme Court, a differently abled advocate nominated by the Supreme Court Bar Association and a person nominated by the Centre for Disability Studies at NALSAR University of Law are other members of the committee.
An officer of the Supreme Court Registry will be its member secretary.
The Supreme Court said that the initiative of the Chief Justice of India is in lines with the World Health Organization's theme this year: "Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world." During the valedictory function of Constitution Day celebrations on November 26, CJI Chandrachud had mentioned about the move by the Supreme Court to conduct an accessibility audit of the top court premises.
President Draupadi Murmu was the chief guest at the function.
On November 24, in a bid to make the software used by the Supreme Court accessible to those visually impaired, Chief Justice Chandrachud in the midst of a hearing has sought assistance of senior lawyer S K Rungta and asked him how he follows written arguments of lawyers and gets them converted into a braille document.
Rungta, who lost his vision at a very young age, was responding to the written submissions of eminent senior lawyers in a case related to the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission before a bench which comprised the CJI and Justices Hima Kohli and J B Pardiwala.
"I wanted to ask you a personal question. I hope you do not mind. The other counsel is citing a compilation, how do you follow it," the CJI asked, adding "I am chairing the e-committee as you know, and this (making software accessible to all) is one of my missions." The senior lawyer said he was more than willing to assist the top court in its noble cause and explained how he responds to written arguments in courts instantly.
The senior lawyer said he gets the soft copy of the compilation of documents of other lawyers in his pen drive and uses his computer to convert them into braille.
He also said the software used by the top court should be compatible with the software used by people with visual disabilities.
Chief Justice Chandrachud told the senior lawyer he would ask the head scientist of the National Informatics Centre to have a meeting with him to work together for making the court's software disabled-friendly.
The CJI said some changes have been made to the official website of the top court by making it accessible through audio captchas.
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