Covid-19: Maharashtra govt orders allowing only fully vaccinated people in local trains 'illegal', says HC | India News

Covid-19: Maharashtra govt orders allowing only fully vaccinated people in local trains ‘illegal’, says HC | India News


MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday said that the Maharashtra government’s order of 2021 to allow people fully vaccinated against Kovid-19 to travel on local trains “illegally” and shamelessly violated the fundamental rights of citizens. A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutt and Justice MS Karnik said the three orders signed by the then Chief Secretary to the Government Sitaram Kunte were clearly deviating from the procedure laid down under the Disaster Management Rules.
“The orders issued by the former chief secretary were a clear deviation from the prescribed procedure. Due to the illegal order, the fundamental rights of the citizens were shamelessly affected,” the High Court said.
On Tuesday, government prosecutor Anil Anturkar told the court that three orders (issued on July 15, August 10 and August 11, 2021) had been withdrawn.
“In the spirit of the High Court’s observation, three orders have been withdrawn. The state executive committee will hold a meeting on February 25, after which new directions will be issued,” Anturkar said.
“We can lift the ban (on the use of local trains by people who have not been vaccinated or by those who have taken a dose) or impose it based on the current Covid-19 situation. At this stage, I can say no more.” Anturkar says.
The bench then pointed out that the number of people tested positive for coronavirus in Mumbai on Monday was the lowest in 20 months.
“We hope and believe that the State Executive Committee will take an appropriate decision on February 25, keeping in view the declining trend of Covid-19 cases,” the High Court said and posted the matter for further hearing on February 28.
On Monday, Mumbai reported 96 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest one-day increase since April 17, 2020, according to the city’s civic body.
The High Court bench noted that Kunt’s orders violated the state’s disaster management rules and were issued in his personal capacity as chairperson of the state executive committee without any consultation with other members.
“The chairperson has the power to pass such orders only in case of emergency. However, we do not think that any of the three orders created an emergency situation for the former chief secretary to issue such an order,” the High Court said.
The bench on Monday asked the government whether it was willing to withdraw the three circulars as they had not been passed following due process.
The court was hearing a series of public interest lawsuits challenging the ban on the use of local trains in the city by non-vaccinated people, saying such bans are illegal, arbitrary and violate the fundamental rights of citizens to move freely across the country. This is confirmed by Article 19 (1) (d) of the Constitution.
Nilesh Ojha, counsel for one of the petitioners in the case, had earlier argued that the state had failed to exercise its discretion in bringing in SOPs and that it had discriminated between vaccinated and non-vaccinated persons, though neither the Center nor the Maharashtra government had done so. Vaccination has been made mandatory.

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