File photo of a Mumbai local train | Wikipedia
File photo of a Mumbai local train | Wikipedia
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Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday said the Maharashtra government needed to come up with a way to allow common people to use public transport system in Mumbai as people are losing jobs, while hearing a plea by lawyers seeking permission to board suburban trains.

The HC directed the government to file its reply within a week on a plea filed by the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa demanding all lawyers from Maharashtra be allowed to board local trains for court hearings in Mumbai.

The Bar Council claims to represent over 1,75,000 lawyers from the two states.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni also sought reply from the state government on another plea of lawyers demanding that consumer courts across the state be directed to begin proceedings either online or through physical hearings.

The bench said the state needed to come up with a way to allow general public to begin using public transport system in Mumbai.

“Allowing only lawyers can seem like bias on our part.

For why not allow the other sectors? We cannot only think of lawyers.

“People who are starving, losing their jobs. General manager in office is doing dumper driver jobs. Someone is selling vegetables (because of the pandemic). Many people would be getting back to their jobs. You (state) have to device a formula,” the bench said.

Local trains in Mumbai area currently being run only for people employed in essential sectors.

The plea on consumer courts has been filed by an association of consumer court lawyers from across Maharashtra.

The petitioner stated consumer courts had halted all hearings since the nationwide lockdown was imposed in March this year.

Consumer courts across the state do not have any provisions for conducting online hearings, it said, while urging HC to issue necessary orders.

The petitioner also said more than one lakh cases were pending hearing in consumer courts in the state.

The bar council stated it had written to the state government soon after the coronavirus-induced lockdown was imposed seeking that lawyers be recognised as essential service providers and be permitted to use local trains, but the state is yet to respond.

Earlier this month, the HC had directed the state government to permit lawyers who had physical hearings in the Bombay high court to use trains.

Currently, lawyers with cases in HC are issued permission on a daily basis once railway authorities confirm that he or she has a physical hearing in HC on that particular day.

However, the bar council in its plea wants access to trains for lawyers having cases in courts across the city.

The bench directed the petitioners’ counsels Uday Warunjikar and Milind Sathe to submit in writing, any suggestions that they had for the state to help the latter devise a way for citizens to resume using the public transport system in the city while maintaining Covid-19 safeguards.

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