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By Aditi Inamdar

On December 3rd, which is celebrated as International Day of Disabled Persons, The Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud has formed an expert panel, named “Supreme Court Committee on Accessibility”, to scrutinize the accessibility of the Court for the disabled. The Committee has been established with a view to take note of the difficulties faced by the differently abled while accessing Court premises and also to provide suggestions and remedies for the improvement of Court surroundings for the handicapped.

Justice S Ravindra Bhat will be heading the Committee, and it shall consist of a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court, a Professor from NLSIU Bengaluru, a disabled employee of the Supreme Court, a disabled advocate nominated by The Supreme Court Bar Association and a person nominated by the Centre of Disability Studies at NALSAR, Hyderabad. An officer from the Registry of the Supreme Court shall be the member secretary of the Committee. Infrastructural as well as technological aspects of accessibility shall be assessed in the audit. The first step will be to create a questionnaire and circulate it among disabled advocates and staff, in order to understand the problems faced by them. Further, to make the audit more democratic, suggestions will also be sought from litigants and interns. The Committee then, shall prepare and submit a report with all the findings from the audit, highlighting difficulties of the disabled, after which, reforms will be proposed and implemented by the Committee.

According to a statement by the Supreme Court, this decision has been taken keeping in mind WHO’s theme for this year: “Transforming solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world.” After appointment as the Chief Justice of India, Justice Chandrachud has spoken at various events about his vision for inclusivity in the justice system.Time and again, he has emphasized upon reducing challenges for the differently abled in the courtrooms. In his speech on Constitution Day, in presence of the President of India, Justice Chandrachud declared his decision to conduct an accessibility audit of the Supreme Court. In a proceeding earlier, the Chief Justice had also interacted with Adv. SK Rungta, who is one of the first visually-impaired senior lawyers practicing in the Supreme Court. Impressed with Adv. Rungta’s use of software for converting documents into braille, The Chief Justice sought his assistance on making the Court more disabled-friendly.

While the audit is the first step in the direction, more reforms are expected to roll out soon after the problem areas have been identified by the Committee. ‘Change begins at home’ – thus, through reforms, the home of justiceis making efforts to ensure that discrimination does not permeate the courtroom andbarriers in the judicial system are done away with.

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