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Should there not be some facility for those without private vehicles? Kerala HC asks in plea to relax ban on public transport amid Lockdown

Meera Emmanuel

The Kerala High Court today asked the State to get instructions on whether any transport facilities can be provided to aid the movement of persons who do not own private vehicles for essential purposes amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Bench of Justices PV Asha and Shircy V issued the direction while hearing a plea seeking the relaxation of the total ban imposed on public transport during the lockdown, particularly in view of the revised guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs after the second phase of the lockdown began.

Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate Anila Umesh pointed out that the common public is facing difficulties given the total prohibition on public transport as well as taxis and auto-rickshaws.

To buttress her case, she highlighted a recent incident about an infant in need of medical care was recently made to wait in a police station for 6 1/2 hours, after the Kerala Police seized the autoricksaw en route to the hospital.

Umesh, therefore, suggested that some mechanism to be rolled out so that at least a limited number of autorickshaws or taxis may be allowed to ply in urgent cases.

Appearing for the Central Government, the ASG, however, told the Court that the Centre has notified guidelines for the total prohibition of public transport until May 3 and that any relaxation on this issue could lead to a "huge catastrophe", bringing more people outside.

He added that movement at present is only allowed for limited purposes such as the procurement of essential items for individual households. As such, he argued that there was no need to resume public transport at present.

The Court, however, struck a chord of disagreement, pointing out that people who do not have private vehicles would not be able to step out as easily, even for the procurement of essential items.

"Should there not be some facility for them?"
the Kerala High Court queried.

The Court proceeded to direct the State Government Pleader to take instructions as to the availability of facilities for the transportation of the common public, without violating the guidelines already issued by the Government for the lockdown, or by way of relaxing these guidelines.

The Court clarified that the facilities proposed for this purpose need not be public transport per se, but that it could also be other facilities extended by the Government to allow the movement of persons for urgent purposes during the lockdown. The matter has now been posted to be taken up on May 5.

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