The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to take adequate steps to maintain social distancing once the metro services resume.
The court said that the compartments are packed to the gills, which can be dangerous in the current COVID-19 pandemic situation.
With these directions, the court disposed of the petition filed by Shreesh Chadha seeking direction to operate all the public transport in all districts and further to frame guidelines for the hygiene of commuters and public transport operators.
The Delhi Government told a Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and S Prasad that as of now, there is adequate public transport that has been permitted to meet the requirement of the public at large.
As and when the lockdown is further relaxed, the DMRC shall also be permitted to operate the Metro Rail in terms of the directions that may be issued by the respondents subsequently, the government said.
The DMRC also told the court about the Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) formulated by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for train operation after the restoration of the metro services.
Maninder Acharya, ASG appearing for Union of India and Advocate Shadan Parashar, counsel for the state government said that the grievance of the petitioner has been adequately addressed.
The government also told the court that the intra-state movement of DTC, as well as cluster buses, has been permitted with a condition that not more than 20 passengers shall be allowed at one time inside the bus and the Transport Department has been directed to deploy the adequate number of buses to ensure social distancing inside the bus.
Parashar, counsel for the GNCTD, submits that although private offices and government offices have been permitted to function at full strength, directions have been issued for private offices that as far as practical, persons should work from home. Similarly, though, all shops and market complexes have been permitted to remain open, the directions issued are that they should remain open on an odd and even basis.
The public interest litigation was filed by Chadha through advocate Prashant Vaxish, who sought an appropriate direction to the respondent to frame guidelines to ensure safety and hygiene of the passengers and public transport operators.
A Division Bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal had asked Centre, Delhi Government, Delhi Transport Corporation and DMRC, to file reply on the plea and listed it for May 20.
The plea had also sought a direction to set up thermal scanning units, and other necessary equipment to ensure that only passengers who are testing negative for COVID-19 and are utilising the service for commuting for the purposes of the permitted activity are allowed to board.
The petitioner told the court that as per revised guidelines of lockdown, the government provided relief to private establishments by allowing them to operate.
The petition stated that a large population of the national capital do not own private vehicles, and rely solely on the well-established and highly utilised public transport system and auto/cycle rickshaws to reach their places of work.
“On average, lakhs of people make the journey from their home to their place of work and back, daily. Therefore, by allowing establishments and offices to operate, without the operation of public transport, the Government of India has failed to take this part of NCT Delhi’s working population. This leaves a large portion of the working population without the means to reach their workplaces when now they are explicitly required to by their owners/employers,” the plea said.
The plea said that no buses, metro trains or rickshaws are available to the marginalised section of the working population and the entire working population that relied on public transport systems to commute to their places of work.
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