Include us in essential services, plead lawyers
Bombay High Court bench asks state government to respond by August 6
The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Maharashtra government to take a decision on the representation made by city-based lawyers seeking that legal services be recognised as essential services and that they be permitted to use local trains to commute to courts.
A bench led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta said the state government must inform the court of its decision by August 6. The bench was hearing a bunch of public interest litigations and intervention applications filed by lawyers from across the city.
The petitioners' lawyers Shyam Dewani and Uday Warunjikar informed the court that in the absence of permission to use local trains, lawyers, especially those living in the suburbs, found it difficult to reach the courts.
While the High Court had been conducting virtual hearings, several lower courts still required physical presence, sometimes owing to infrastructure issues or lack of adequate internet connectivity etc, the lawyers argued.
The bench accepted the submission and noted that the Bombay High Court too had recently permitted physical filing of cases.
The court noted that a similar petition had been filed by another bench of the High Court earlier this month. On July 10, the bench led by Justice S S Shinde had held that categorising a particular set of professionals as essential service providers was the state government's prerogative. It had directed the lawyers to make a representation before the state. On Friday, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the court that the state government was yet to take a decision.
State to assess situation
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who represented the Union government, told the court that currently the WR was operating 150 of its 1,365 trains, while the CR was operating 353 of its 1,774 trains, with limited stops.
"Even with the limited number of trains, we are finding it difficult to maintain social distancing," he said.
However, if the state wishes to augment train services, the understanding between the two governments is that the state can make an assessment of its needs and place a request before the Centre, he added.
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