Observing that it was a question of survival for the needy persons, the Bombay High Court on Monday suggested the Maharashtra government should consider allowing daily wage workers, vendors and shop employees to use local trains during non peak hours. It suggested daily services of local trains be increased corresponding to the number of commuters and sectors opened up.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was Monday hearing PILs seeking directions to the state to consider practising advocates as essential service providers and permit them to travel by suburban local trains to attend hearings at subordinate courts in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
Local trains are currently being operated only for essential services staff and government employees in view of the Covid-19 outbreak. Last month, the HC asked the state to permit lawyers who had physical hearings in the Bombay High Court as well subordinate courts in MMR region to travel to court by local trains on “experimental basis”. The HC on Monday said the arrangement will continue till further orders.
The state government Monday informed the court it had not been able to conduct a meeting of all stakeholders regarding usage of public transport as per the directions of the court in a previous hearing and sought more time to convene such a meeting.
The government, however, said it had held a meeting of various department heads and police officers under the chairmanship of state chief secretary to deliberate on increasing local train services for various sectors and has taken certain decisions. Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni said a decision has been taken to permit women to use local train services during non-peak hours.
When the court sought to know if similar facilities were provided to daily wagers, vendors and shop employees, the government submitted they were currently not allowed to board local trains.
The bench said, “It is a question of their survival. They are most needy and the identification has to be done by the appropriate department to identify the categories. You need to tell us what percentage of sectors have opened up and if they are correspondingly allowed to travel by public transport, trains.”
The bench said, “Increase in train services means an increase in revenue loss until the number of travellers is increased. Allow more people to travel by staggering office timings and reduce revenue loss. We agree that it is going to be a challenge. A very effective machinery is needed.”
Seeking responses to its suggestions, the court posted the next hearing on October 29.
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