On Tuesday (29th September 2020), the Bombay High Court said that it cannot keep hearing in pleas seeking inclusion of lawyers in the list of essential services in order for them to travel in local trains limited to lawyers only. At a time when people from all types of professions are starving and losing jobs, it is not valid to include only lawyers in the list of essential services.
The PIL was heard by a bench of two judges: Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni. Two separate PILs were heard of which one was filed by the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa and the other was filed by Consumer Court Advocates Association. The first PIL wanted the inclusion of advocates in the list of essential services while the second PIL focused on seeking directions to resume the physical hearing.
Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta informed Advocate Uday Warunjikar who was appearing for both the petitions that the government is currently allowing only private organizations to work at a capacity of only 50%. At such a time, when all professions have taken a hit due to the pandemic, it would be a bias of the Court to allow lawyers to travel by local trains. He also said that the court was thinking for a long time that instead of physical hearing during peak hours, it would be a viable option to keep the hearings at lean hours like that between 2 pm to 6 pm. A concern raised by Government Pleader Poornima Kantharia was that trains that are running currently are overcrowded and after the lockdown, the rush has increased significantly. In response to this, Justice Kulkarni said that it was feasible for hearing to happen at lean hours as the traffic would be very less in Mumbai at non-peak times. The Justice then heard the plea which sought after the inclusion of advocates in the list of essential services. He said that it was not possible and right to only think about the lawyers. If the conversation is kept limited to the lawyers, it would seem bias. At a time where everyone is losing jobs and starving, a formula needs to create which would benefit not only the lawyers but others as well. The court also added that cooperation from the people is required and The Bar Council of India is meant for the Advocates but it is also a statutory body and has a duty towards others as well. However, the bench also asked the state to consider the discussions and points which came up during the hearing and allow lawyers of the lower courts such as the Consumer Courts to travel in local trains.