Delhi HC accepts petition vs Uber India in disability discrimination case

Guwahati: In a new development, the Delhi High Court has accepted a petition filed by NCPEDP’s Executive Director Arman Ali against Uber India over discrimination against persons with disability.

The lawsuit, which was initially filed in 2019 after an appalling incident of discrimination against Arman Ali, Executive Director of NCPEDP (National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People) by an Uber cab driver, has been given August 23 as the date for the next hearing session by the Delhi High Court. 

In 2019, Ali was discriminated against by Uber India due to his disability. Arman had booked a cab using the Uber App to reach the Chennai airport to board a flight to Bengaluru, and the same had been confirmed verbally with the cab driver. However, the trip was cancelled by the driver after making Ali wait for 20 minutes, who then booked a second cab through the same App. 

When the taxi arrived, the driver refused to keep Arman’s wheelchair in the backseat for the ride’s duration, stating that it would damage his car seat, and cancelled the trip. This caused Arman to miss his flight and the subsequent meetings planned in Bengaluru. Apart from the financial loss he incurred, the discrimination he faced owing to his disability was a serious violation of his fundamental rights as well as a punishable offence under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016. 

A suo-moto cognizance of the incident was taken by the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, NCT of Delhi, under Section 80 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016, asking Uber India to show cause as to why Arman faced discrimination. However, there was no response from Uber India, and neither did anyone appear on their behalf at the hearing scheduled on July 24, 2019. 

The ride-sharing giant was also directed by the Director, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment to look into the matter and take appropriate measures to sensitize their drivers to take care of commuters with disability. In addition, despite having expressed his humiliation, loss of dignity, and the unprofessionalism displayed by the cab drivers to the senior authorities at Uber India, Arman is yet to receive an apology or financial compensation. 

The Uber India System Private Limited filed a written reply through their authorized representative to the show cause notice. While the company expressed its sincere regrets for the inconvenience caused to Arman, in the same response, they denied taking any responsibility for the actions of the Uber driver.

It further stated that Uber does not control the conduct of the drivers. For a dignified customer, who is paying for the service being provided and the Uber driver cancelling the trip abruptly due to his disability, it is an act of denial of their business.

Arman Ali, Executive Director, NCPEDP, said, “These acts of discrimination masked by pity towards individuals with disabilities are grained within a system designed to discriminate. And this isn’t the first incident of discrimination against disabled persons. The recent news detailing the unjust act of barring a teenager with a disability from boarding an IndiGo flight citing safety guidelines and later, on receiving flak, offering to purchase an electric vehicle is an example of how disabled persons are belittled.”

A similar incident happened in February 2022, when a 22-year-old young woman with a disability was denied entry to a pub in Gurugram in view of ‘safety reasons’ to prevent any harm to her or other customers. It is a complete violation of rights. Services and products should be overhauled and designed to be in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016. Still, after more than 5 years of the act coming into existence, its implementation remains low-spirited. They need to be enforced to avoid such instances of discrimination,” he said.

Discrimination and prejudice against persons with disabilities (PWDs) continue to be an everyday occurrence. Section 46 of the Act mandates that “the service providers, whether government or private, shall provide services in accordance with the rules on accessibility formulated by the Central Government under Section 40 within a period of 2 years from the date of notification of such rules”. Thus, all sectors must make themselves accessible and provide equal opportunity to the disabled. It is time that persons with disabilities, as a community, come together and demand their rights to be exercised and valued.

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