As the Bombay High Court said the Maharashtra government needed to come up with a way to allow common people to use public transport system in Mumbai, state minister Aaditya Thackeray said there are no plans to resume suburban train services by mid-October.
He, however, said the state government is in talks with Railways to increase the frequency of suburban trains currently run in Mumbai.
This comes as the High Court asked the Maharashtra government to consider resuming public transport as people are losing jobs.
Local trains in Mumbai area currently being run only for people employed in essential sectors.
Hearing a plea by lawyers seeking permission to board suburban trains, the HC directed the government to file its reply within a week.
The plea has been filed by the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa demanding all lawyers from Maharashtra be allowed to board local trains for court hearings in Mumbai.
The Bar Council claims to represent over 1,75,000 lawyers from the two states.
What did HC say?
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni said the state needed to come up with a way to allow general public to begin using public transport system in Mumbai.
"Allowing only lawyers can seem like bias on our part. For why not allow the other sectors? We cannot only think of lawyers," the bench said.
"People who are starving, losing their jobs. General manager in office is doing dumper driver jobs. Someone is selling vegetables (because of the pandemic). Many people would be getting back to their jobs. You (state) have to device a formula," the bench added.
The bar council stated it had written to the state government soon after the coronavirus-induced lockdown was imposed seeking that lawyers be recognised as essential service providers and be permitted to use local trains, but the state is yet to respond.
Earlier this month, the HC had directed the state government to permit lawyers who had physical hearings in the Bombay high court to use trains.
Currently, lawyers with cases in HC are issued permission on a daily basis once railway authorities confirm that he or she has a physical hearing in HC on that particular day.
However, the bar council in its plea wants access to trains for lawyers having cases in courts across the city.
The bench directed the petitioners' counsels Uday Warunjikar and Milind Sathe to submit in writing, any suggestions that they had for the state to help the latter devise a way for citizens to resume using the public transport system in the city while maintaining Covid-19 safeguards.
What is Maharashtra govt's plan?
In an exclusive interview to Free Press Journal, Thackeray said deliberations to increase the frequency are going on but there was no proposal for the commencement of full services from mid-October.
"No, no. More frequency first and deliberations are ongoing," he said on being asked about the resumption of local train services from mid-October.
"So basically the state is working closely with the railways on the frequency of the train services in peak hours. Also, we are thinking of staggering office times or liberalising it but that will be a larger discussion and process with all stakeholders," Thackeray, who is also the Mumbai suburban guardian minister, added.
(With inputs from Sanjay Jog)