The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has asked the state authorities to take immediate steps to ensure that all migrant workers are provided with basic amenities, during the impending challenge posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Taking stock of the "unfathomable hardships" that are being caused to labourers due to national lockdown and consequent arrest of their means to daily wages, the single-Judge bench of Justice Sunil B. Shukre ordered,
"In the circumstances what looks to be sensible is to provide clothing, medicine and health care and throwing generally an umbrella of protection around these labourers…This Court would, therefore, direct the State of Maharashtra to make arrangement for stay, food, sanitation clothing and health care of the labourers, working class including migrant labourers, in need of these provisions."
The national lockdown has put a halt to all activities, except for the essential services, forcing the labourers in urban cities to move back to their villages. Expressing concern over this the bench remarked,
"Owing to such large scale movement of labourers, there is a further danger of spread of COVID¬19. This is apart from unfathomable hardships the labourers are going through owing to stoppage of their income derived as wages of every day's hard labour."
Inter alia, the court said it was conscious of the economic privation that may hinder the arrangement of such faculties as ordered above. Accordingly, it suggested that charitable institutions registered under the Public Trusts Act or the Waqf Act may be called upon to discharge their responsibilities by helping the public.
"I am of the conscious of the fact that for making all these arrangements funds are required… The State Government is accordingly requested to examine the aspect of calling upon the charitable institutions registered under the Maharashtra Public Trusts Act and Waqf Act to contribute/surrender moneys in their accounts in certain percentage…and take appropriate decision in the matter consistent with the charitable object espoused by the Public Trusts Act and the Waqf Act," the bench said.
Furthermore, the court clarified that all the departments of the State will be at liberty to submit various bills, relating to the expenses incurred by them during the financial year 2019-20 to the District Treasuries and Sub-Treasuries even after the scheduled deadline of April 1, 2020, in view of the extraordinary circumstances due to national lockdown.
The matter is now listed for consideration on April 8.
The order has taken cue from the Orissa High Court which took suo moto cognizance of the large scale movement of migrant workers/ labourers and ordered the state to make apposite arrangements for providing food and shelter to such people, in addition to ensuring their medical screening.
Similar orders have also been passed by the High Courts of Kerala and Rajasthan, seeking response from the respective state governments on the measures taken by them for the welfare of such migrant workers.
Case Title: CH Sharma & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra & Ors.
Case No.: WP No. 3427/2000
Quorum: Justice Sunil B. Shukre
Appearance: Anup Gilda, Advocate/Amicus Curiae (for petitioners); S.Y. Deopujari, GP; S.M. Puranik, Advocate and U.M. Aurangabadkar, ASGI (for Respondents)
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