The Bombay High Court slammed the Railways on Friday saying "women do not feel assured that they are safe in the compartments reserved only for them", and directed the national transporter to file a comprehensive action-taken report on the issue by December 12.
A division bench of Justice S C Dharmadhikari and Justice R I Chagla said Mumbai is considered the commercial capital of the country, but still women don't feel safe while travelling in trains.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed in 2012 on the issue of women's safety in trains and also vacancies in the Railway Protection Force (RPF).
"When a woman travels, all that she wants is safe travel...whether it is late in the night or as early as five in the morning. Till date, women do not feel assured that they are safe in the compartments reserved only for them and hence during odd hours women prefer to travel in the common coach," Justice Dharmadhikari said.
"The petition was filed in 2012. We are now almost in 2020 and till date, we don't think much has changed. This is great disappointment...a very sorry condition. Umpteen cases are still lodged each day," the bench observed.
It directed the Central and Western Railway authorities to file a comprehensive action-taken report on the issue by December 12.
The court sought to know from the Railways if it had conducted any survey among women travellers to gauge the problems they face during their travel.
"Ask these women how protected they feel in trains. Women from each strata of the society take trains day in and day out. Educated women are at least aware enough to fight and get cases lodged but what about those who do not know how to handle such situations," Justice Dharmadhikari said.
When Western Railway's lawyer Suresh Kumar pointed out that RPF constables travel in ladies coaches during late night and early morning hours, the court said RPF officials must be boarding the compartment from one side and getting off the other side.
"How do you monitor if these RPF constables travel in the compartment from start to end?" the court asked and added that no RPF official should be allowed to use their mobile phones while on duty.
"The seniors would be doing a great service if they take away mobile phones of RPF officials who are on duty on platforms and in trains. Why are they not pulled up for negligence or dereliction of duty?" the court asked and went on to say that drunkards, drug addicts and jobless youth brazenly get into ladies compartments.
"This menace needs to be curbed by the Railways, provided they see it as a menace," Justice Dharmadhikari said.