The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government why those who were fully-vaccinated against Covid-19 couldn’t travel by local trains, Live Law reported.
The court was hearing two public interest litigations filed by the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa, seeking permission for lawyers to travel to courts and offices by suburban trains in Mumbai. Presently, only health workers and government employees can use local trains.
“What is the benefit of the vaccine?” Chief Justice Dipankar Datta asked Maharashtra Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni. “After taking the vaccine, people are not supposed to sit at home, they are supposed to work and earn their livelihood. Courts have begun functioning. Lawyers will have to come to court.”
The chief justice added: “If you compare, the situation between last year and this year is very different...in the sense that we are vaccinated now. That should weigh on the minds of authorities.”
The Maharashtra advocate general informed the court that he held a meeting with the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa and railway officials to decide on a tentative procedure for lawyers to use local trains.
“Lawyers will approach concerned Bar Associations or Bar Council, produce vaccination certificates,” Kumbhakoni said, according to Live Law. “The association will certify [if] they are fit to travel by observing Covid protocol. Then a monthly or three monthly pass will be issued, not a daily ticket.”
The court asked Kumbhakoni if the government had a comprehensive plan for opening up travel through local trains. The lawyer said no such plan had been worked out yet.
“It is imperative to work on such a plan because otherwise this suspended position and uncertainty is affecting everybody,” Justice GS Kulkarni said. “And some to such an extent burden on finances, roads. A one way journey is three hours. Why can’t the population travelling by road not take trains?”
Kumbhakoni informed the court that railway officials were asking for a letter from the State Disaster Management Authority to let lawyers travel by local trains but it was reluctant to do so. “We will try our best to avail the letter from the concerned authority, ” he said, according to The Indian Express.
The court said it was not just concerned about lawyers but other citizens too. “Spread the net wide,” the chief justice said, according to Live Law. “Not only for lawyers but people coming from other walks of life.” The court will hear the matter next on Thursday.
Maharashtra has been recording lower daily Covid-19 cases over the last couple of weeks. On Sunday, the state registered 6,479 infections and 157 deaths.
Last week, the state’s Health Minister Rajesh Tope had said that the government was planning to open up local trains for all those who were fully-vaccinated, India Today reported.
Tope added that Covid-19 restrictions might be eased in 25 districts where the number of cases and positivity rate – the percentage of people who test positive for the virus out of those who have been tested overall – were low.
“No relaxations have been planned for districts like Pune, Solapur, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Raigad Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Palghar, Beed and Ahmednagar as cases are still high there,” Tope had added.