The Bombay High Court on Thursday suggested starting a system of issuing electronic passes to lawyers to allow them to travel by local trains to attend physical hearings of cases in the HC on an ‘experimental basis.’ The court asked the Maharashtra government how long it planned to restrict suburban train services because of the pandemic.
Travel by special local trains has been restricted by the government for personnel employed in the state, municipal, health and essential services only. Lawyers are not permitted.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni on Thursday heard PILs filed by Chirag Chanani and other lawyers through advocate Shyam Dewani and another plea through advocate Uday Warunjikar, seeking permission for lawyers practising across Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) to travel by special suburban local trains to attend physical hearings or visit their offices.
The bench said, “How long will the state keep everything closed? We have to now live with the coronavirus. How long will this go on? It has been six months.”
The court also said that it has started physical hearings for criminal appeals in limited manner and judges were complaining that many lawyers were not able to appear before it due to lack of transport. “Maybe this (not permitted to travel in local trains) is one of the reasons,” CJ Datta said.
The bench said as the current arrangement cannot continue for a long time, the government can think about issuing daily passes to lawyers who have physical hearings on a given day to use trains to reach the High Court. It suggested that if the e-pass system with High Court lawyers works, the authorities could think of a similar system for trial courts later.
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