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After SC Takes Suo Motu Cognisance Of Migrant Workers' Plight, Original Petitioners Seek Intervention To Assist Court [Read Application]

4 Jun 2020 2:43 PM GMT
After SC Takes Suo Motu Cognisance Of Migrant Workers
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After the Supreme Court last Tuesday took Suo Motu cognisance of the miseries of migrant labourers stranded across the country amidst the COVID lockdown, activists Anjali Bharadwaj and Harsh Mander, besides Jagdeep S. Chhokar, former Dean, IIM-Ahmedabad have prayed for permission to assist the Court in the matter.Vide their intervention application, it is urged that "the applicants would like to assist the court by placing on record" the PILs previously filed by them "with regard to the plight of migrant workers in the aftermath of the country wide lockdown for which no prior intimation was given and which created panic across the country and led to an instantaneous loss of jobs and wages of millions for migrant workers". The first petition, on behalf of Bharadwaj and Mander, had sought directions to the Central and the State governments to jointly and severally ensure payments of wages/ minimum wages to all the migrant workers whether employed by other establishments, contractors or self-employed, as they are unable to work and earn wages, during the period of the lockdown. The second, by Chhokar, sought directions for the safe return of all migrant workers to their home towns without any payment for transport and with adequate food for the duration of their journey.

It is sought to be pointed out that "Both the above mention petitions were disposed off after brief hearings".
"Since this Hon'ble Court has now taken suo motu cognisance of the misery of the migrant workers, the applicants humbly seek to intervene to assist the court with regard to the various issues that the migrant labour have been facing since the lockdown. The applicants being responsible and prominent social workers and academics of this country and since the lockdown have been working for the welfare of migrant workers", it is pleaded.
Observing that that the country has found itself in an unusual state of affairs and that the stakeholders involved were trying to do their best, a three-judge bench of the apex court had on April 21 disposed off the PIL seeking payment of wages to Migrant Workers who are in dire straits in light of the lockdown imposed due to the COVID19 pandemic.
"The learned Solicitor General, Mr. Tushar Mehta, has filed a status report and submitted that various measures are in place to address the issues concerning the migrant workers. He further argued that helpline number has been provided to report issues concerning the implementation at the ground level,and that whenever any complaint is received, the authorities are attempting to address the same immediately. Taking into consideration the material placed before us, we call upon the respondent-Union of India to look into such material and take such steps as it finds fit to resolve the issues raised in the petition", the Court had summarily stated, in disposing of the writ petition.
As regards the second PIL, the court had attached much weight to the SG's submissions that "the reliefs which have been claimed in the writ petition, have been substantially granted since the
Government has issued order on 29.04.2020 accepting for movement of workers, who were migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists and students who had stranded at different places and could not move from one place to another". "It is further submitted by Mr. Tushar Mehta that the above was already under contemplation even before filing of the writ petition and the Government was considering the same. He further submits that subsequently further orders have been passed on 01.05.2020 (where the Railways has decided to run "Shramik Special" trains to move migrant workers) and thereafter for facilitating the movement of the aforesaid category of stranded persons, Government is taking all steps with regard to mitigating the hardship of migrant workers who had stranded", the top court had noted.
 "Necessary modalities for such transportation has to be implemented by the concerned States/Union Territories in collaboration with the Railways. Insofar as charging of 15% of Railway tickets' amount from workers, it is not for this Court to issue any order under Article 32 regarding the same, it is the concerned State/Railways to take necessary steps under the relevant guidelines. The substantial relief in the writ petition having been fulfilled we cannot expand the scope of the writ petition to consider other issues sought to be raised by the learned counsel for the petitioners during course of argument. In view of the aforesaid, no purpose will be served in keeping the writ petition pending", the Court had said in closing the petition on May 5.
Then, on May 26, observing that "the newspaper reports and the media reports have been continuously showing the unfortunate and miserable conditions of the migrant labourers walking on-foot and cycles from long distances" and that "the crises of migrant labourers is even continuing today with large sections still stranded on roads, highways, railway stations and State borders. The adequate transport arrangement, food and shelters are immediately to be provided by the Centre and State Governments free of costs", the Court had suo motu issued notices to the Centre as well as all State Governments and Union Territories.
Subsequently, the Supreme Court on Thursday posed several questions to the Central Government on the issues concerning migrant workers. 
"The person should have money in their pocket in the first place. No migrant should be charged any fare. There has to be some arrangements between states about who bears the cost", the bench remarked.

"Are these people who are going to be transported, are being asked to shell out any money at any stage? With food surplus available with the FCI, is food being supplied to them while they wait for being transported back?", the bench asked.

"How much time do you need to shift the migrants to where they want to go? What will be monitoring mechanism to ensure that food and basic necessities are taken care of?, the bench continued.

Click here to download the Intervention Application

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