Bombay HC asks Maharashtra govt why vaccinated persons cannot travel by local trains

The Bombay High Court asked the Maharashtra government on Monday why people who had received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine could not be permitted to travel by local trains in Mumbai. It also asked the government to work on a comprehensive plan for the same so that the burden on other modes of transport can be reduced.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing PILs filed by the BCMG and other lawyers, through senior counsel Milind Sathe seeking directions to the state government to consider over 1000 practicing advocates as essential service providers and permit them to commute by local trains to attend hearings and for other professional purposes.

“What is the benefit of being vaccinated? After taking the vaccine people are not supposed to stay at home, they are supposed to work and earn their livelihood. Courts have begun functioning physically. Lawyers will have to go to the Courts. Please use your (AG Kumbhakoni) good office. Railways are also cooperating. Let us have a beginning. not just for lawyers, but people from other walks of life too. Spread the net wide. We are concerned for lawyers and are concerned for others as well,” the Court said.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni representing the state government informed the Court about the meeting of Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa (BCMG), state and Central government representatives with Railway officials and said that a tentative procedure or formula was decided wherein the lawyers were willing to travel by local trains can approach through the bar associations and produce their vaccination certificates, after which, the organizations will issue a certificate to them. Those lawyers who cannot apply through bar associations can go through BCMG, he added.

He added that there was a difficulty as the Railway Authorities were requesting a letter from the state disaster management authority (SDMA) in this regard. He added that the Authority headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was ‘slightly reluctant’ to issue such a letter for lawyers, as only front-line health workers and certain government employees are allowed to take local trains at the present stage.

Kumbhakoni added that while CM Thackeray was on a tour of flood-affected areas, the decision could not be taken.”We will try our best to avail the letter from the concerned authority, ” Kumbhakoni added.

The bench also referred to a PIL filed by a city resident, Mohan Bhide, seeking directions to the authorities to relax travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people who have completed 15 days since the date of their second dose, allowing them to travel by suburban local trains.

The bench then asked AG Kumbhakoni, ” Why people travelling by buses cannot be shifted to trains. Is there a comprehensive plan for the near future for all stakeholders regarding the entire population that is vaccinated? Because it is not like the roads are in a good condition. Look at the road and traffic conditions. It takes 3 hours one way to reach Dahisar (from south Mumbai). Why entire population travelling by road cannot travel by train?

“It is imperative to work on such a plan because otherwise this suspended position and uncertainty is affecting everybody. And to some people to such an extent which causes a burden on their finances…”

The Court sought the state government’s response for access to local trains to lawyers and other vaccinated persons by Thursday, August 5.