Bombay HC asks Maharashtra to consider restarting public transport in a planned manner
The Bombay high court (HC) has asked the state government to consider reopening public transport facilities in a planned manner in a bid to ensure that people from all walks of life get to earn their livelihood, who have been financially hit hard because of the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The court made the suggestion while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking permission for lawyers to attend lower courts.
The court has asked the petitioner lawyers to share a one-page note of suggestions with the Maharashtra government in a bid to help it take a decision by October 5.
The state authorities have been directed to inform the court about their decision on the next date of the hearing of the related pleas on October 6.
The bench held that court and lawyers have to ensure that they do not look after their own needs, but also of the other people, who are starving because they have been deprived of their means of livelihood due to the viral outbreak.
A two-member HC division bench, comprising Chief Justice (CJ) Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni, while hearing the PIL filed by the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa was informed by senior counsel Dr Milind Sathe that the petition was seeking directions to the state government to consider advocates as essential service providers and permit them to travel by suburban trains to attend lower courts.
However, government counsel Poornima Kantharia opposed the plea and cited that despite the travel restrictions the Covid-19 pandemic situation was going from bad to worse, as suburban train services were running packed during peak hours.
The court heard the submissions and drew the attention of Dr Sathe to media reports, which stated that the government was considering allowing employees of private organisations to travel by suburban trains.
“We understand that the local trains are packed but we have to look at the needs of other people, too, as they have lost their means of livelihood. We read a report, where a manager of a hotel had to work as a helper of a dumper truck to support himself,” said (CJ) Datta.
The bench suggested that the lower courts could start functioning from 2 pm, as the trains were packed during peak hours. The court said the move would allow the lawyers to travel by trains in the afternoon when they are running upto 50% capacity.
“We have to think about ways to overcome the situation. We need to guard against what has happened in Kerala, where there has been a 126% rise in Covid-19 cases since the Onam celebrations,” observed CJ Datta.
“Allowing only lawyers can be biased on our part. Why not the other sectors? We cannot only think of lawyers, but we have to think of people from other sectors as well. People, who are starving, after losing their jobs,” the bench further observed.
The bench asked Dr Sathe and advocate Dr Uday Warunjikar, who appeared in a related matter, to submit a one-page suggestion such as looking at staggered timing of local courts.
The bench further directed the state to consider the suggestions and if it found them prima facie acceptable to take a decision for permitting local train, bus and other modes of transport for travel for the public and file a reply to this effect on October 6.