The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the Centre and state government to respond to a public interest litigation (PIL) that sought directions to allow lawyers to travel by suburban local trains running during the Covid-19 pandemic as they provide essential services.
A Division Bench of Justices A A Sayed and M S Karnik Tuesday heard through video conference the PIL that claimed many lawyers do not own a private vehicle and it becomes difficult for them to commute to the court and so they should be included in the list of persons entitled to travel in special local trains and declare that services rendered by lawyer is essential service.
Currently, only government employees and essential services providers are allowed to use local trains after its services were resumed following suspension during the lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The PIL, filed by Chirag Chanani and other lawyers through advocates Shyam Dewani and Bhoomi Katira, sought from the authorities to permit advocates practicing across Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) to travel by suburban local trains being run during pandemic restrictions. It also sought to direct the state and central government through Railways to include lawyers in the list of essential staff.
“Petitioners, being residents of suburbs in Mumbai, undergo tremendous inconvenience to travel to the courts and their offices in town as the courts have also started functioning since last month,” the plea said.
The PIL stated that lawyers are restricted from commuting by special local trains and are not considered essential services as per the circular issued by the Divisional Railway Manager enumerating categories of essential services staff. While the same have been considered essential service by the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, petitioners said.
It added, “This problem is faced by hundreds of lawyers who do not have their own vehicles and are not in the bus zone or are required to change 3-4 buses to reach court, which is also a problem as time constraint for legal profession is of utmost importance.”
The bench issued notices to the respondent authorities and directed them to clarify its position through affidavits in reply and posted the case for hearing after two weeks.
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