A batch of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions and a writ petition were filed at the instance of the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa, members of the bar, etc., with the Bombay High Court wherein the petitioners prayed that the members of the legal fraternity and their registered clerks should be included in the category of providers of "essential services" and therefore, should be allowed to commute by the suburban local trains operated by the Central Railway and the Western Railway.
During the hearing, the Court clearly stated that while the State of Maharashtra is in the phase of "Unlock 5 – Mission Begin Again", the concern expressed in these petitions ought to be addressed bearing in mind the hardships and inconvenience faced by one and all and not necessarily restricted to the needs of the members of the legal profession.
A Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni asked the Counsel appearing for the State – Ms. Purnima Kantharia as to whether the State would propose to the Railways for increasing the number of local train services to the extent of at least 700 daily services by both the Western Railway and the Central Railway from the present 512 and 431 services, respectively, being operated by them.
The Counsel appearing for the State was of the view that was against increasing frequency of the suburban trains as she was of the opinion that social distancing norms are not being maintained by the commuters who are allowed to travel in local trains, and that there has been large scale fraudulent activities for availing the local train services by unscrupulous elements, and therefore, it may not be advisable to increase the frequency as suggested by the Court.
To this, the Court observed that the overcrowding of the local trains to a substantial extent could be taken care of if more trains are allowed to be operated by the Railways. The Court said, "We hope and trust that the State shall respond to the suggestion for considering the desirability of proposing to the Railways for increase in the frequency of the local train services and appropriately."
The next hearing on the matter is on October 9, 2020.