Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to frame a comprehensive plan to permit vaccinated people to travel by Mumbai local trains and questioned as to why all vaccinated could not be allowed to travel by train when everyone is allowed to travel by buses.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni, while hearing public interest litigation (PIL) Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa (BCMA), said: “There is an improvement since last time as people are vaccinated. Let them travel by train. What is the purpose of taking the vaccine and staying at home? Not just lawyers, but people from all walks of life (have to step out to work).”
The HC is hearing a bunch of PILs by BCMA, lawyers and private persons seeking that lawyers be permitted to travel by local trains and Metro rail to commute to courts and their offices.
Chief Justice said: “All lawyers are above 18 years of age and permitted to receive the vaccine now. So, a decision needs to be taken. Otherwise, what is the benefit of the vaccine? One is not supposed to sit at home even after taking the vaccine. Lawyers need to come to court at some point.”
"The Railways is also cooperating, so please use your good office. We must make a beginning. Spread the net wide. Not only for lawyers, but also people coming from other walks of life," added Chief Justice.
Justice Kulkarni remarked that the pandemic and its restriction were affecting all citizens. “A comprehensive plan is needed, otherwise it is affecting everyone. It is affecting one's finances, work. Look at the condition of roads. One takes three hours one-way to travel to Dahisar. Why this population using roads can't be permitted to shift back to trains?" asked justice Kulkarni.
On Monday, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhkoni informed the HC that the State Disaster Management Authority had a meeting with all the Bar Councils and Bar Associations, but were reluctant to permit all the lawyers, judicial clerks and court staff to resume local train travel.
Senior advocate Milind Sathe argued that since the physical hearings have resumed in the high court and subordinate courts, lawyers and their clerks will have to travel by trains.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the Railways, informed the HC that the Western, Central and Harbour Railway authorities had agreed to issue monthly, quarterly or six-monthly travel passes to lawyers and court staff. However, they will have to get a letter from Bar Council or Bar Association stating that they have received one or both the jabs.
Kumbhkoni clarified that the disaster management committee is reluctant this time to permit everyone to travel by train. “Only health care-related workers have been categorized as Frontline Workers and are allowed to travel by train. This time even people from other categories like electricity, telephone or other essential services are not allowed to travel by trains,” said Kumbhkoni.
He further said: “A meeting of the authority, presided over by the chief minister, will be held soon to make a decision.”
Advocate Mohan Bhide, in a related PIL, argued that all citizens who have received both doses of the vaccine be permitted to resume a "normal life". He cited a study issued by the Christian Medical College, Vellore which said that the frontline health workers who had received both doses of the vaccine, contracted milder symptoms of COVID-19 when compared to those who were yet to receive the vaccine.
The court has kept the PILs for further hearing on August 5.
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