The Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea by a lawyer challenging the full seating capacity in metro and Delhi Transport Corporation buses saying that it’s a policy decision and if such a prayer is allowed then it would open a flood gate of petitions.
A two-judge bench led by Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said, “It is for a competent authority, charged with the duty of administration, to take an informed call on matters with regard to public transport. If every citizen was permitted to raise the said issues and challenge the decision of the government, there would be no end to such petitions.”
The court further stated, “The Authorities had consciously not permitted overcrowding in Delhi Metro, DTC Buses and Cluster Buses, by not permitting standing passengers.”
The Court was hearing the plea to quash paragraphs 2(viii) and 2(ix) of Annexure A of the order dated July 24, 2021, passed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, which permitted the Delhi Metro, DTC Buses, and Cluster Buses to operate with 100% seating capacity, as the court did not find any merit in the petition.
The petitioner in person, Advocate S.B Tripathi argued that even though restaurants are operating with 50% capacity and Bars are operating with 40 % capacity, the Administration has allowed the Delhi Metro, DTC Buses, and Cluster Buses to operate with 100% capacity making it impossible to maintain social distancing.
Justice Vipin Sanghi refuted this argument stating that in settings like Restaurants and Bars the customers have to take out their masks, whereas there is no such requirement for traveling in Delhi Metro, DTC Buses, and Cluster Buses.
Paragraphs 2(viii) and 2(ix) of Annexure A of the order dated July 24, 2021, passed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority read as follows:
2(viii): Transportation by Delhi Metro shall be allowed with 100% seating capacity of coach. No standing Passengers shall be allowed.
2(ix): Intra-State (within NCT of Delhi) movement of buses (DTC as well as cluster) shall be permitted with 100% seating capacity. In the case of buses, boarding shall be allowed only from the rear door while deboarding shall be allowed only from the front door. No standing passenger shall be allowed.
The writ petition states that after the first phase of Covid-19, public transport including Delhi Metro, DTC buses and Cluster Buses were permitted to function with 50% seating capacity, allowing the passengers to sit alternatively and maintain social distancing. The Delhi Government had also allowed standing passengers with the place of standing earmarked.
According to the petition, the second wave of Covid-19 was very destructive and resulted in loss of lives of numerous people. Experts and Doctors are of the opinion that the third wave of Covid-19 is just around the corner, moreover, Covid-19 virus is has not yet disappeared, only the rate of infections has dropped for the time being.
The petition avers that with the Delhi Government allowing 100% seating capacity in Delhi Metro, DTC Buses and Cluster Buses, the passengers would have to sit next to each other, making maintaining social distancing among passengers not feasible. This has increased the risk of Covid-19 infections among passengers of public transport, accelerating the onset of the third wave of infections.
The petition submits that the petitioner has been a witness to the appalling state of public transport, Delhi Metro along with DTC and Cluster Buses are running overcrowded and the passengers are not able to follow social distancing.
Mr. Tripathi in the petition concedes that even though the modes of public transport were running overcrowded before passing of the impugned order, the passengers that wanted to maintain social distancing had the remedy of contacting the appropriate authority to ensure social distancing is followed.
On the previous date of hearing a Single Judge Bench of Justice Rekha Palli had transferred the Writ Petition to Division Bench- II of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh as the Bench was s already dealing with cases relating to the management of Covid-19 in the NCT of Delhi.