Lamenting that it was spending precious judicial time to remind the railways about providing basic facilities to suburban commuters in accordance with law, the Bombay high court on Wednesday gave two weeks to the authorities to comply with this requirement.
"It is sad to note that the court has to spend judicial time on deciding matters such as increase in the height of the platforms in the interest of passenger safety which is a basic right of a handicapped commuter," said a bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice AS Gadkari.
The judges gave two weeks time to the railways to inform when it would provide basic facilities for the disabled commuters, including the increase in the height of platforms.
The bench has taken suo motu cognisance of a media report on a rail accident in which a teenaged girl lost her arms after a fall from a local train at suburban Ghatkopar station.
The wide gap between foot-board of trains and platforms is allegedly the main cause of accidents, according to the report.
The court also directed the Maharashtra government to inform its decision on a proposal sent to the state by the railways for allotment of 14 pieces of land adjoining certain railway stations to be used as helipad for airlifting patients to hospital during an emergency.
In April this year, the Central Railway had written to the Maharashtra government seeking permission for allotting space for helipads near important railway stations. However, it has not yet received any reply from the state.
Suresh Kumar, the counsel for the railways, said the Central Railway had identified around 12 sites on the Harbour route, where helicopters could land. The CR had also identified another 14 properties which can be used to airlift the injured in case of major railway disasters.
In July, the HC had also directed the Railway Board to raise the height of suburban platforms to 920 mm by March next. This could curtail the number of deaths of passengers on suburban tracks. The court directed the railways to complete the work of raising platforms by May 30, 2015.
There are 104 railway stations on the suburban section, of which only 52 stations are disabled-friendly.
Referring to this, the court asked, "Are you (railways) stating that specially-abled persons do not board trains."
Kumar replied that a time-bound plan needs to be formulated to ensure the physically challenged persons can easily access the railways. The hearing was adjourned to November 26.