New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday declined for the time being to order resumption of metro rail services in the national capital saying adequate public transport has been permitted to be operated by the AAP government for the public at large.
A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said as and when the lockdown is further relaxed, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) shall also be permitted to operate as per directions that may be issued by the Centre and AAP government.
The high court said once metro services are resumed, DMRC must ensure that social distancing is maintained as it "has become the lifeline for the citizens of Delhi and the NCR region and invariably, the compartments are packed to the gills, which can be dangerous in the current COVID-19 pandemic situation".
The petitioner, Shreesh Chadha, a law student, had contended that while the Centre and Delhi government allowed government and private establishments to function and also permitted use of cars and two-wheelers, they forgot that a large number of people in the national capital rely on public transportation to commute to work.
The petition had sought that public transportation be allowed to operate in the national capital "in strict compliance with social distancing and disinfection or sanitation norms".
On the last date of hearing, the high court had observed that the Centre's May 1 notification allowing private offices to run with 33 per cent strength, discriminates against those without their own vehicle as no provision was made for such persons to commute to work during COVID-19 lockdown.
During Wednesday's hearing via video conferencing, the Centre told the bench that as per the new lockdown guidelines, certain activities like metro services remain prohibited throughout the country.
"However, the activities that have been permitted with restrictions in the containment zones, includes Intra-state movement of passengers and buses, as may be decided by the concerned States and UTs," the Centre told the court.
The Delhi government told the bench that it has allowed plying of auto rickshaws, e-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, taxis/cabs with limited number of passengers and "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".
However, the petitioner's lawyer stated that DMRC be directed to operate the Metro Rail in Delhi at the earliest as it is causing great inconvenience to the public large.
The bench disagreed with the contention, saying "We may note that it has been just two days since the new rules and regulations have come into force. It is too early in the day for learned counsel for the petitioner to urge that there is an inadequate supply of public transport for insisting that respondent DMRC must be directed to operate the Metro Rail in Delhi immediately."
"As of now, there is adequate public transport that has been permitted to be operated by the Government of NCT to meet the requirement of the public at large.
"As and when the lockdown is further relaxed, the respondent DMRC shall also be permitted to operate the Metro Rail in terms of the directions that may be issued by the respondents subsequently," the bench added. PTI HMP SKV RKS RKS RKS
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