MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the Railways why non-passengers are allowed to enter railway stations in Mumbai that already face the problem of overcrowding.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Rajesh Ketkar said if the passenger travelling in a train was "kind" then "ten persons from his family come to see him off".
"They hold the hands of the passengers and say don't go, come back soon. Sometimes, if a person if affectionate, ten people come to the station with him, sing a song for him. Then there are hawkers on the platforms. The Railways is very kind, it allows everyone to enter. What is the need for this?" the bench asked.
The bench was hearing a bunch of petitions highlighting the infrastructure problems plaguing the existing suburban railway network in the city.
Two of these petitions also sought appropriate directions to the state and the Railways to avoid in future, incidents such as the stampede at the Elphinstone Road station in the city last year.
The bench noted that while the Railways had solved the problem at Elphinstone station by constructing a new foot overbridge, it needed to take "proactive steps" to avoid such incidents in the future at other places in the city.
The bench also noted that the problem of overcrowding wasn't restricted just to the suburban railway stations in the city, but also to the stations where long distance trains stopped.
"The infrastructure at most of these stations is ageing. And we have a problem of population explosion. On top of that, so many people from outside of Maharashtra come to the city. How will the existing infrastructure cope with all this?" the bench asked.
Amicus curiae Zal Andhyarujina, however, told the bench that a major percentage of the migrant population in the city used the Railways and it was difficult to stop them from doing so.
Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh told the bench that the government had roped in IIT Bombay to audit the safety of all existing railway overbridges and foot overbridges across the city.
He also informed the court that both the Centre and the state were taking a number of measures to ensure safety of rail passengers.
The bench disposed of one of the petitions on the Elphinstone incident after noting that the IIT audit report was pending and that appropriate remedial steps would be taken by the authorities once the report was in.
"We hope you (government, railways) will take proactive steps in future when it comes to taking decisions, allocating budget, etc. If a bridge is deemed dangerous in the future, don't take any risk. Seal it and don't let the public use it," the bench said.