Court tells government to allow climbers with disabilities on Everest

The Supreme Court today stayed the government’s decision to bar double amputee and visually impaired persons from climbing mountains, allowing them to obtain climbing permits to attempt to climb any mountain above 6,500 metres, including Mt Everest, the world’s highest peak.

Responding to the separate writ petitions filed by Madhav Prasad Chamlagain and visually impaired climber Amit KC, a constitutional bench of five justices led by Chief Justice Gopal Prasad Parajuli issued an interim order asking the government not to implement the revised clause of the mountaineering expedition regulation that bars double amputee and visually impaired persons from climbing mountains.

Chamlagain, who also represents persons with disabilities in the central executive board of the Federation of Nepali Journalists, registered a case challenging the government’s recent move to insert a sub clause in the revised mountaineering expedition regulation to bar double amputee and visually impaired persons from obtaining climbing permit. Visually impaired Amit KC, who had reached near South Col by obtaining Mt Everest climbing permit in the last spring season, also registered a writ against the government decision at SC yesterday.

According to Kishor Paudel, SC’s Communication Expert, the court also issued a show cause notice to the government telling it to give reasons within 15 days for inserting such a provision to bar double amputee and visually impaired climbers from seeking climbing permit.
Senior advocate Yadu Nath Khanal, advocates Rewat Prasad Kharel and Kumud Prasad Bhattarai pleaded before the full bench of the apex court for Chamlagain while advocates Ananta Raj Litel and Bikash Bhattarai pleaded for KC.

Amit KC

Photo (C) Amit KC

The advocates argued that the specific clause of the mountaineering expedition regulation violated the human rights as granted by the constitution as well as the United Nations convention on the rights of the persons with disabilities.

Reacting to the court order, Chamlagain said that he was fighting for the rights of persons with disabilities, who consist of around 15 percent of the world population. “The court order clearly specifies that disability is not inability,” he added. KC said that SC delivered justice in favour of all the persons with disabilities.

Climbing fraternity also hailed the SC’s decision. “The court order is in favour of country’s tourism and against the discrimination of all forms,” Mingma G Sherpa, a five-time Everest summiteer who runs Imagine Treks and Expedition, said.

Former British Gurkha soldier Hari Budha Magar, who aims to be the first above the knee double amputee to climb Mt Everest, said that the Supreme Court delivered justice to the differently-abled persons. Magar lost both his legs in wars in Afghanistan.

Earlier, the government’s move to bar differently-able persons including those with double amputation from climbing peaks had drawn wide criticism around the world.

According to climbing records, Erik Weihenmayer of US (visually-impaired), New Zealander Mark Inglis (double leg amputee), Arunima Sinha of India (without left leg), Rob Hill of Canada (with Crohn’s disease) and Nepali-born Canadian Sudarshan Gautam (double hand amputee) among others successfully scaled Mt Everest in the past.

Budha Magar also became the first double amputee above the knee to climb Mera Peak (6,476m), the country’s highest trekking peak, in the last autumn season.

Laxman Sharma, Director at the Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, said the department would act as per the court ruling. “The DoT has not formally received the court order.”

Source: The Himalayan Times