New Delhi, The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to ensure that adequate steps are taken to maintain social distancing after the lifeline of the national capital is back on track.
"It shall be the duty of the DMRC to ensure that adequate steps are taken to maintain social distancing once the Metro Rail is permitted to function, particularly, since DMRC 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," said a division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad.
The observation came in while the court was hearing a petition filed by Shreesh Chadha seeking court's direction to the Centre and Delhi government to operate all the modes of public transport in all districts of the national capital. It also sought court's direction for framing of guidelines for hygiene of commuters and operators of these public transports.
During the course of hearing, the Delhi government through its counsel informed the court that as of now, there is adequate public transport that has been permitted to be operated 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.
"Intra-state movement of DTC as well as cluster buses have been permitted with a condition that not more than 20 passengers shall be allowed at one time inside the bus. The Transport Department has been directed to deploy adequate number of buses to ensure social distancing inside the bus," said Shadan Parashar and Bharat Gupta told the court.
Advocates Pushkar Sood and Satya Prakash appearing for the DMRC appraised the court about Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) formulated by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for Metro operation after restoration of the its services.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Acharya representing the Union of India and Advocate Shadan Parashar, counsel for state government said that the grievance of the petitioner has been adequately addressed.
After hearing the matter at length, the court disposed off the petition. "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 DMRC must be directed to operate the Metro Rail in Delhi immediately," the court noted.
"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 DMRC shall also be permitted to operate the Metro Rail in terms of the directions that may be issued by the respondents subsequently," it added.
The plea states that no buses, metro trains or rickshaws are available to the marginalised section of the working population that relied on public transport systems to commute to their places of work.
"On an 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.