August 2, 2021 8:25:56 pm
The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government as to why people who have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine could not be permitted to travel by local trains in Mumbai. “What is the benefit of being vaccinated? After taking the vaccine people are not supposed to stay at home, they are supposed to work and earn their livelihood,” the court said as it asked the government to work on a comprehensive plan so that the burden on other modes of transport can be reduced.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing PILs filed by the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa (BCMG) and other lawyers, through senior counsel Milind Sathe, seeking directions to the state government to consider practising advocates as essential service providers and permit over 1,000 lawyers to commute by local trains to attend hearings and for other professional purposes.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, representing the state government, said that through a tentative formula, vaccinated lawyers can approach through Bar associations or BCMG and produce their vaccination certificates, after which organisations would issue certificates for train travel, based on which they can get Railway passes.
Kumbhakoni said the Railway Authorities were requesting a letter from the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) in this regard which the Authority, headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, was “slightly reluctant” to issue as presently only frontline health workers and certain government employees are allowed to take local trains. “However, we will try our best to avail the letter from SDMA,” Kumbhakoni told the HC.
“Courts have begun functioning physically. Lawyers will have to go to the Courts. Please use your good offices. Railways are also cooperating. Let us have a beginning. Not just for lawyers, but people from other walks of life too. Spread the net wide. We are concerned for lawyers and are concerned for others as well,” the Court told Kumbhakoni.
The bench also referred to a PIL filed by a city resident, Mohan Bhide, seeking directions to the authorities to relax travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people who have completed 15 days since the date of their second dose, allowing them to travel by suburban local trains.
The bench then asked AG Kumbhakoni, “Why people travelling by buses cannot be shifted to trains? Is there a comprehensive plan for the near future for all stakeholders regarding the entire population that is vaccinated? Because it is not like the roads are in a good condition. Look at the road and traffic conditions. It takes three hours one way to reach Dahisar (from south Mumbai). Why entire population travelling by road cannot travel by train?”
The HC said state and Centre can consider opening dedicated ticket counters at railway stations for fully vaccinated persons. Through these counters, those who have got two doses of anti-Covid vaccines can avail fresh identity cards and passes indicating vaccination status.
The Court sought the state government’s response for local trains’ access to lawyers and other vaccinated persons by Thursday, August 5.
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