The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked Maharashtra’s Chief Secretary to file an affidavit enumerating the reasons behind the state government’s decision to permit only “fully vaccinated” people to board local trains in the Greater Mumbai area.
It said the issue concerns curtailing the fundamental right of citizens who have got either a single dose or no dose, as their “bread and butter” is dependent on daily wages and they cannot afford other modes of transport.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand S Karnik was hearing pleas challenging the Maharashtra government’s decision in August to permit only “fully vaccinated” people to board local trains, and visit malls and workplaces.
The pleas filed by activists Feroze Mithiborwala and Yohan Tengra have sought that all people in Mumbai Metropolitan Region be allowed to travel by local trains, irrespective of their vaccination status.
The petitioners, through advocates Nilesh Ojha and Tanveer Nizam, said the state government was passing such orders despite the Central government making it clear that there cannot be discrimination based on vaccination status.
After the petitioner referred to alleged deaths due to vaccines in European countries, Chief Justice Datta said, “Show us only from Indian reports and what our scientists are saying. They’re (Other nations) still struggling with Covid, while we’ve gone past second wave. We stand on much better footing. Do not compare India with them. Those countries should learn from India.”
In European countries, there is sparse population. Here, only in Dharavi there is population as much as a European country, therefore in India, there are more challenges.”
Challenging the maintainability of the plea, senior Advocate Anil Anturkar for state government said the petitioners did not have locus (legal standing) to file the same as they have not shown if they are not fully vaccinated. Stating that the petitioners did not represent the large number of non-vaccinated people, Anturkar said the plea was filed “casually”, adding interim relief should not be granted.
After hearing the submissions, the bench noted: “The broader issue is of curtailing fundamental rights of citizens who cannot avail the suburban rail services and the rationale therefore has to be presented before us either by the state government or by State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).”
The Court then asked the state chief secretary, who is also the ex-officio chairperson of SDMA, to file an affidavit by Tuesday, December 21, setting forth the rationale behind the division between vaccinated and non-vaccinated persons. The court also granted liberty to the petitioners to make the authorities concerned parties to the PILs and posted further hearing to December 22.