Mumbai: Observing that train travel was essential for Mumbaikars, the Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the Maharashtra government and the Railways authorities to finalise travel permission for vaccinated persons by train.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girsh Kulkarni was hearing a bunch of Public interest litigation praying that persons who have taken either one or both the jabs should be permitted to travel by train.
The judges questioned as to why there was no restrain on travel by bus whereas common people were not permitted to travel by train. “Our concern is for people from all walks of life. Is there no chance of (getting) infection in a bus? And there is (chance of getting infection) in train?” asked Chief Justice.
Emphasising on the need to start trains for common public, justice Kulkarni said: “Can’t compare Mumbai with Nashik, Aurangabad, other cities. This is a city with special needs. People have to travel for livelihood and train travel is the most economical".
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhkoni informed the HC that the government will be sending a letter to the Railways within a day permitting travel of lawyers in train after they (lawyers) submit a letter from either the Bar Association or the Bar Council. “We (government) had a meeting with members of the Bar Associations and the Bar Council and we have accepted their request to permit train travel for their clerk and other staff – like stenographer, peon – as well,” said Kumbhkoni.
The lawyers will have to get a certificate from the Bar Association or the Bar Council stating that they have received one or both the jabs. Based on this, the railways will issue train travel pass for one, three or six months.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the Railways, said that they will act once they receive the letter from the state government.
The HC even suggested having a common card to certify vaccination status for travel on train or bus. “Consider having a common card that can be used to travel in train or bus, which can be universally applicable. It can even be used for international travel,” suggested Justice Kulkarni.
The AG and ASG said that they would discuss it with the Task Force.
Nilesh Pawaskar, advocate for Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh, said that journalist too should be declared as frontline workers and be allowed to travel by train. “Journalists have to go to ground zero and report. This bridges the gap between the authorities and public,” said Pawaskar.
Stressing on the need to declare journalists as frontline workers, Pawaskar informed the HC that over 140 journalists had lost their lives due to COVID-19.
Advocate for another petitioner, Mohan Bhide, said that the government could even consider extending timing for the restaurants as well. “Shops are not allowed to remain open till 8pm. Buy restaurants have to shut down at 4 pm. When the fact is that most of their business happens in the evening,” said the advocate.
To this chief justice asked: “If everything is open, then why not the restaurants?”
The HC has also asked the government to consider setting up an expert committee which would look into all the problems of commuting in the city. “Why do people have to come to the high court for everything? You (government) should have a committee which can look into public’s problems,” said justice Kulkarni.
The HC kept the petition pertaining to train travel of advocates for hearing on August 9. Remaining petitions have been kept for hearing on August 12.
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