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‘What was emergency to curtail fundamental rights of citizens’: Bombay HC questions Maharashtra govt for banning unvaccinated people from local trains

"What was the emergency that enabled the chief secretary to take a decision all by himself and the fundamental rights of the citizens were curtailed?" Bombay High Court asked Maharashtra govt for banning unvaccinated people from local trains

On Friday 11th February 2022, the Bombay high court instructed the Maharashtra government to submit all files and records pertaining to three Covid-19 standard operating procedures issued in July and August 2021. These orders of SOPs included the restriction on the use of local trains by unvaccinated people. The court also asked the state government what was the need to ban the local trains for unvaccinated people.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M S Karnik heard a bunch of public interest litigations challenging the prohibition on the use of local trains in the city by unvaccinated persons. The petitioners had put forth in their argument that the move was illegal, arbitrary, and in breach of the citizen’s fundamental right to move freely across the country as guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (d) of the Constitution. The three SOPs issued by the state government on July 15, August 10 and August 11 of 2021 were challenged in these PILs.

Advocate Niles Ojha, the counsel for one of the petitioners, had previously argued that the state govt had failed to apply its mind to the SOPs and discriminated between the vaccinated and unvaccinated persons, as vaccination was not made mandatory by either state or central govt.

In its argument, the state government told the high court bench that the restriction on local train travel had been invoked by the then state chief secretary Sitaram Kunte considering the Covid-19-related emergency at that time. In response to this argument, the bench asked the government to produce the corresponding files.

The court asked the government counsel Anil Anturkar, “What was the emergency that enabled the chief secretary to take a decision all by himself and the fundamental rights of the citizens were curtailed?”

Anturkar said, “At that time, people were dying (of Covid-19), and the chief secretary considered the situation to be that of an emergency.” He further informed the court that the August 10, 2021 SOP had been signed by the state government, which means that the decision was taken by the state executive committee while the other two orders had been signed by Kunte since he was the chairperson of the committee.

On this argument by the government counsel, the high court bench underlined the fact that as per the state’s own records, the secretaries of departments such as home, revenue, finance, and relief and rehabilitation were also among the members of the state executive committee. The court further went on to ask “They (secretaries of the departments mentioned above) probably have offices in the same premises. If it was such an emergency then couldn’t the chief secretary call at least one or two of them?”

The court added, “We need to look into the relevant records and files pertaining to the SOPs under challenge. Let the entire records/files be placed before us on February 21.” The court said that decision of whether to call the chief secretary or not, will be taken only after going through those files.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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