The Aam Aadmi Party led government and Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) today urged the Delhi High Court to permit procurement of 500 standard floor buses for the national capital, saying that these vehicles were primarily meant for rural areas on the city outskirts where the roads were poor.
AAP and the DTC told a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao that the standard floor buses, proposed to be procured, were disabled friendly with hydraulic lifts that would help the differently-abled persons to access the buses easily.
The proposed procurement was opposed by a differently-abled person, Nipun Malhotra, who has moved two PILs challenging the Delhi government and the DTC's decision to buy 2,000 standard floor buses (SFBs) instead of the low floor buses (LFBs) for the national capital.
After hearing the arguments, the High Court reserved its decision on the procurement of 500 SFBs.
Mr Malhotra, who was represented by advocate Jai Dehadrai, contended that SFBs were not disabled friendly as they were mounted on truck chassis and their height prevented differently-abled persons from boarding them.
Mr Dehadrai also contended that lack of good roads in the rural areas cannot be a reason for buying SFBs as there would be disabled persons in the villages and the government was responsible for ensuring good roads.
Advocate Aman Panwar, appearing for Congress leader Ajay Maken who has also opposed the procurement, said that according to the DTC itself, LFBs were more advanced and safer than SFBs.
Mr Dehadrai also argued that as per the Ministry of Urban Development's harmonised guidelines of 2016, LFBs with ramps were required, instead of SFBs with hydraulic lifts.
He also contended that the harmonised guidelines have been upheld by the Supreme Court while allowing procurement of 500 SFBs by Delhi government as an interim measure.
The Supreme Court in August had allowed the Delhi government and DTC to go ahead with procurement of 500 SFBs, out of the 1,000 proposed to be bought.
The High Court would decide regarding the remaining, it said.
The top court had permitted procurement of 500 SFBs as an interim measure to take care of "pressing needs" of commuters using public transport in Delhi, after the Delhi government assured that hydraulic lifts would be installed in the buses to make them accessible by disabled persons.
The contention of the petitioner was opposed by the Delhi government and DTC which claimed that procurement of SFBs was a "dire need" as its fleet of buses was facing a 40 per cent shortfall.
The DTC also said that currently 66 per cent of its fleet was disabled friendly and after procuring of the 500 SFBs, the percentage would still be more than 50 per cent.
It said that procurement of LFBs was not feasible economically as they were costly and their annual maintenance cost, as quoted by the supplier, was "unrealistically high".
The Delhi government contended that no statutory scheme was being violated by the procurement of SFBs and added that states had the power to decide the height of buses plying on its roads.
The High Court reserved its decision on the procurement of 500 SFBs.