Advocate raises concern over punishment to four for using reserved elevator
Is an elevator a train compartment? That's at the heart of a complaint after a magistrate shamed four youngsters for trying to access a lift for people with special needs
An advocate from Kandivli has taken up cudgels on behalf of the four youths who were handed a unique 'placard-holding' punishment by the railways for using an elevator at Virar station meant only for the visually challenged and senior citizens over a week ago.
Reena Richard, a Bombay High Court lawyer, has raised concern over the punishment and has questioned the legal credibility of their conviction.
In her five-page letter to Divisional Railway Manager, Mumbai Central and Western Railway General Manager, the lawyer has highlighted that the board displayed near the lift/elevator stating that the lift is only for 'divyangjan and senior citizens' is 'illegal' and hence it shall be 'removed immediately'. She wrote the letter after mid-day published a story in this regard on October 12.
The four youth were convicted under section 155(a) of the Indian Railways Act and were given the option of six months' imprisonment or community service by the mobile court railway magistrate RN Chavan at the Virar railway station. The accused opted for community service and were given placards to raise awareness about the infrastructure use by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to do so. The youth stood at the railway station for two days - October 6 and 7 - with the placards.
Two of the four youth who were made to stand with placards at Virar railway station. Pic/Hanif Patel
"I want to know which section of the Railway Act or any other Act states that the lift can be used by handicapped persons and senior citizens only?" Richard questioned in her letter.
"Section 155(1) clearly refers to unauthorised entry of a person into a coach of the train wherein no berth of seat has been reserved by a railway administration for his use. However, in this case, the four youngsters tried to enter an elevator," said Richard, adding, "What provisions of Railway Act have they violated?"
A senior railway official, however, told mid-day that "the elevator is also sort of compartment." At Virar railway station, he said, the elevator has been installed specially for senior citizen and specially-abled people. Also, women in advanced stages of pregnancy can use this elevator. Others are liable to be punished under Railways Act."
Richard pointed, "Lifts/elevators are installed only on few platforms of the Western Railway. Only one lift is installed per platform on some stations. Unless and until another lift is installed for the use of the common public, the one sign only for the handicapped is unconstitutional."
She has also asked how young pregnant ladies, injured young people, people carrying luggage or anyone who is sick, tired or fatigued use staircases at railway stations. "I would like to know which provision of the Railway Act prohibits all these people from using a lift. Which section has the power to override the fundamental right to equality," she added.
She urged the railways to take urgent action to remove the conviction on the youths and "take steps to provide compensation to them for wrongful conviction and punishment." The lawyer sent her assistant to collect a certified order of the copy but the officials evaded her requests, said alleged.
'Rly staff non-cooperative'
"My staff went to the Virar railway station master's office on October 14 to enquire about the incident. The on-duty station master was not even aware of it though. He told my staff to check with the Virar Mobile Court authority at Vasai Railway Station or the main RPF authorities," she said.
Advocate Reena Richard. Pic /Hanif Patel
"My staff went to the Mobile Court where the officer said that he couldn't find the case number and told my staff to ask the Virar RPF. After waiting for hours, nothing was revealed," she added.
Richard is set to visit Virar herself today to take a certified copy of the order to challenge it in a higher appellate court.
'Punishment for awareness'
The Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), Mumbai Central, Sunil Kumar said, "I have not seen what letter has been given to my office related to the youth but the elevators have been installed for commuters who cannot use staircases. The citizens should co-operate."
"The magistrate must have given punishment to spread awareness among commuters. And it should be taken in a positive way," Kumar added.
General Manager AK Gupta said, "I am yet to go through the letter given to my office."
"We would not comment on the verdict. The penalty or punishment has been in good faith," said the Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO), Western Railway, Ravindra Bhakar.
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