Court asks for Railways reply to PIL alleging exorbitant fares during Pandemic

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Chhattisgarh high court has issued a notice to the Railway Board, asking for a response on a public interest litigation (PIL) claiming ‘exorbitant fares’ were being charged by the railways for running ‘Special Trains’, which were actually routine train services being run on identical routes with same rake, timing and stoppages.

The HC issued the notice on Wednesday and asked the Railways to file a reply in the next hearing on the matter. The PIL was filed in October last year by an activist of the state.

“A notice has been issued to the Railway Board on the grievance that despite the discontinuation of food and catering services in Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto class trains, the charges have not been reduced. In violation of the coronavirus-containment guidelines issued by the Railways, unauthorised vendors are allowed to sell food items at higher prices,” said petitioner Sudiep Shrivastava, also an activist and a lawyer.

He further alleged that the fare in ‘special trains’, being run by the railways on different routes during the pandemic, is more than double of the routine service.

“The operation of passenger and local trains has been started only in certain states like West Bengal, where elections are due, whereas, no passenger or local train service is being operated in Chhattisgarh,” Shrivastva said alleging discrimination.

Earlier in October, during the first hearing on the PIL, Ramakant Mishra, the assistant solicitor general had said in the court that the restrictions have been imposed pursuant to the guidelines issued by the Union home ministry and the respondent was giving effect to the same.

“Such guidelines and restrictions have been imposed based on the opinion of the experts in the field and considering the relevant circumstances in connection with the control of the Covid-19 pandemic so as to break the chain and also to contain the disease in the most effective manner…The rigor of unlock as it was prevailing months ago is not existing now and it is being relaxed step by step; which is applicable also in the case of ‘concessions’ and running of regular trains,” he added.

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