Can you run 700 trains daily?: Bombay HC asks State while hearing plea to allow lawyers to travel in local trains amid COVID-19
The Court has also asked the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa, which had filed the plea, to give suggestions on whether court hearings can be conducted in shifts so that traffic can be avoided.
Can you run 700 trains daily?: Bombay HC asks State while hearing plea to allow lawyers to travel in local trains amid COVID-19
Bombay High Court, copyright

The Bombay High Court Bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni on Wednesday heard a batch of petitions seeking directions to the State to include lawyers and their registered clerks in the list of "essential service providers" eligible for travel relaxations amid COVID-19 pandemic.

The Court on Friday has asked the State to take instructions on whether it is possible for the Government to start 700 trains per day on the Central and Western lines of the local rail services.

The Court was informed that the number of trains had not increased on the Central and Western lines of the local rail services despite the lifting of the lockdown.

Earlier, the Court had issued directions on how lawyers may obtain permission for local train travel to physically appear for hearings before the four Benches of the High Court hearing matters physically amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bombay High Court, copyright
Use of local trains to commute for physical hearings: Bombay HC issues directions for lawyers to apply for permits on experimental basis

On Wednesday, Senior Advocate Dr Milind Sathe, appearing for the State Bar Council, raised concern that advocates travelling to lower courts could not avail the local train facilities, despite needing to travel from the corners of the city.

He added that since lower courts did not have video conferencing facilities for hearing matters, the lawyers appearing in those matters have been coming to courts physically.

In the last hearing, the Court had said that it may look into expanding measures for local train travel by lawyers seeking to physically appear before the lower courts, depending on how the process pans out for two weeks.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh submitted on Wednesday that there were limited transport services available as of now as there was a fear of lawyers misusing these services and crowding the trains.

Dr Sathe pointed out that only about 4% of the total registered lawyers used the local train services before the lockdown. Therefore, crowding is not likely to be an issue.

Responding to the Court's observations that trains did not appear to have been increased in a proportional manner with each unlocking phase of the lockdown, the State had placed statistics for the Court's perusal.

The Court, however, noted that the local train services have been reduced to less than half of what it was before the lockdown.

Before adjourning the matter, the Court asked the Bar Council to give statistics on the number of lawyers and registered clerks from Mumbai and neighbouring districts using the local train services.

The Court also asked the Bar Council to give suggestions on how court hearings may be conducted in shifts. For instance, the Court queried whether different courts may function in morning and afternoon shifts to avoid traffic.

The lead petition in the matter was filed by the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa through Advocate Sumit Kate. Dr Sathe appeared for the Bar Council along with Advocate Dr Uday Warunjikar. The connected PIL for registered clerks was filed by M/s Dewani Associates. Several other lawyers had filed intervening applications in this PIL.

The matter has been posted for further hearing on Friday.

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