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"It is within the exclusive domain of the State Legislature to legislate as to whose services to be included into the essential services, keeping in view the paramount interest of the community", the Court ruled.
The Bombay High Court recently dismissed a plea urging for directions so that lawyers and their staff be exempted from COVID-19 lockdown restrictions for the purpose of court work (Imran Mohd. Salar Shaikh v The State of Maharashtra and ors).
To this end, the plea had also called for categorizing Legal Service Providers as "essential services."
The plea was dismissed by a Bench of Justices SS Shinde and Madhav Jamdar on the ground it was up to the State Government to decide on such issues, as outlined in the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2017.
As stated in their July 10 ruling,
The Court further elaborated
The State, however, told the Court that they were willing to consider the grievances raised by the petitioner. In response, it was submitted that the petitioner would file a comprehensive representation to the State Government on the issue.
The Court, in turn, recorded that if such a representation is filed, the State is free to consider the same and take a decision in accordance with the law.
"In case, such a representation, as submitted by the learned counsel appearing for the Petitioner, is filed by the Petitioner with the Respondents, the Respondents are free to consider the said representation in accordance with law and rejection of the present Writ Petition shall not be construed as an impediment to consider such representation", the order states.
Whereas a plea had also been made for directions to revoke a challan issued against the petitioner for an alleged violation of lockdown rules, the Court declined to issue any order on the same, pointing out that the petitioner has an alternate efficacious remedy to claim this relief.
On a related note, on July 7 another Bench of the High Court issued notice in a plea seeking a declaration of legal services as essential for the purpose of travel in Mumbai local trains that are allowed to run for the commute of essential services workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This petition is due to be taken up next on July 21.