In a major new development, the Delhi High Court has accepted a petition filed by the Executive Director of NCPEDP, Mr. Arman Ali (petition in brief [WP(C)6979/2022]) against Uber India for discrimination against people with disabilities. The lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2019 after an appalling incident of discrimination against Mr Arman Ali, Executive Director of NCPEDP (National Center for Employment Promotion of Persons with Disabilities) by an Uber taxi driver, was given August 23, 2022 as the date for the next hearing in the Delhi High Court.
In 2019, Ali was discriminated against by Uber India due to his disability. Mr Ali had booked a taxi using the Uber app to go to Chennai airport to board a flight to Bengaluru, and the same was verbally confirmed with the taxi driver. However, the ride was canceled by the driver after making Mr Ali wait for 20 minutes, who then booked a second taxi through the same app.
When the taxi arrived, the driver refused to leave Mr. Ali’s wheelchair in the backseat for the duration of the ride, stating that it would damage his car seat, and canceled the trip. This caused Mr. Arman to miss his flight and later scheduled meetings in Bangalore. Apart from the financial loss he has suffered, the discrimination he has faced due to his disability is a serious breach of his fundamental rights as well as a punishable offense under the Disability Rights Act 2016. .
A Suo-moto knowledge of the incidence was taken by the State Commissioner for Disabled Persons, NCT of Delhi under Section 80 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (RPWD) requesting Uber India to justify why Mr. Ali was discriminated against. However, Uber India did not respond and no one appeared on their behalf at the hearing scheduled for July 24, 2019.
The ride-sharing giant has also been instructed by the director of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to look into the matter and take appropriate action to sensitize its drivers to take care of commuters with disabilities. Moreover, despite expressing his humiliation, loss of dignity and the lack of professionalism of the taxi drivers, soon after the incident, to the high authorities of Uber India, Mr. Arman has still not received a apologies or financial compensation.
Mr. Arman Ali, Executive Director of NCPEDP, said: “These acts of discrimination masked by pity towards people with disabilities are part of a system designed to discriminate. And this is not the first incident of discrimination against people with disabilities. Recent news detailing the unjust act of banning a disabled teenager from boarding an IndiGo flight citing safety guidelines and later, after receiving criticism, offering to buy an electric vehicle is an example how people with disabilities
are lowered. A similar incident occurred in February 2022, when a disabled 22-year-old woman was refused entry to a pub in Gurugram on ‘security grounds’ to avoid harm to her- itself or to other customers. This is a complete violation of rights. Services and products must be reviewed and designed to comply with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (RPWD). However, after more than 5 years of existence of the law, its implementation remains morose. They must be applied to avoid such cases of discrimination.
Uber India System Private Limited filed a written response through its authorized representative to the show cause notice. While the company expressed sincere regret for the inconvenience caused to Mr Ali, in the same response it denied taking any responsibility for the actions of the Uber driver. He further stated that Uber does not control the conduct of drivers. For a dignified customer who pays for the service provided and the Uber driver who abruptly cancels the trip due to his disability, this is an act of denial of their business service and it violates the fundamental rights of Mr. Arman Ali.
Discrimination and prejudice against people with disabilities (PWD) continues to be rampant. Section 46 of the Act states that “Service providers, whether public or private, shall provide services in accordance with the accessibility rules formulated by the central government under Section 40 within 2 years from the date of notification of these rules”. Thus, all sectors must make themselves accessible and offer equal opportunities to people with disabilities. It is time for people with disabilities, as a community, to come together and demand that their rights be exercised and valued.