Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday underscored the need for ‘equal treatment’ of women commuters in Mumbai’s local trains. The court has accordingly directed the Railways to provide a ‘full-fledged’ first-class compartment for women, as it does for men.
A division bench of Justices Naresh Patil and Girish Kulkarni was ‘disturbed’ to notice the discrimination by the railways in their treatment of women commuters. The bench was irked over railways providing only a 14-seater first-class compartment for women, as against a 70-seater first-class bogie for men. “Why are you discriminating? Why are women commuters not given the same treatment as men,” Justice Patil asked.
“The railways cannot presume that women commuters do not want to travel in first-class compartments. There has been a rise in the number of working women. How these women can travel in first-class compartments when they cannot accommodate more than 14 women, Justice Patil demanded. During the course of the hearing, a female advocate intervened and informed the bench of the ‘infrequent’ timings of special women trains.
“The authorities must consider the fact that at the time of any accident, these women commuters suffer more than the men,” Justice Kulkarni remarked. Accordingly, the bench directed the authorities to provide a 70-seater first-class compartment for women. “You can consider this on a trial period for, say, one month. And then if you think that the compartment is empty, you are at liberty to retain the existing system,” Justice Patil said.
The bench also directed the railway authorities to take ‘special care’ of the security for women, children, senior citizens and differently-abled persons. The bench was hearing a PIL pertaining to the Elphinstone Road stampede and other issues faced by railway commuters on a daily basis.