The Delhi High Court has said 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.
The observation by a bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal came while issuing notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Delhi government, Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and Delhi metro seeking their stand on a plea seeking resumption of public transport services in the national capital.
The bench said that as a result of the notification, even in the high court burden of work has fallen on those having private transport and the others not sharing the workload.
"We find that vide notification dated May 1, 2020 of the respondent Union of India, while private offices with 33 per cent strength have been permitted to be opened, no provision has been made for employees of such private offices to commute to work, resulting in such of the employees of such private offices having own transport, reporting for work and earning their livelihood and those without own transport being discriminated against.
"We have noticed in the court also that owing to this situation, the entire burden of court work has fallen on those having their own transport, with the others not sharing the workload at all," it said in its order which was uploaded on Thursday (May 14).
During the hearing via video conferencing on Wednesday (May 13), Delhi government, DTC and DMRC, said they can resume operations with precautions to prevent further spread of the virus.
The central government said restrictions on public transport operations have been placed only in 'red zones' and "that some responsibility would have to be taken by the civil society".
The bench, however, said that entire Delhi has been classified as a 'red zone' and added "we are entertaining this petition because the same (notification) in our view is resulting in discrimination, as aforesaid".
The petition, by a law student, has 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 has sought that public transportation be allowed to operate in the national capital "in strict compliance with social distancing and disinfection or sanitation norms".
This would ensure that the Centre's decision to allow government and private offices would not adversely affect that portion of the population which does not have private vehicles, the plea by Shreesh Chadha said.
Besides operation of public transportation, the plea also seeks framing of guidelines "to ensure safety and hygiene of passengers and public transport operators".
It also seeks direction to DTC and Delhi metro to set up thermal scanning units and other necessary equipment to ensure only Covid-19 negative passengers are commuting via public transport.