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'Can't You Help Workers Other than Filing PILs?', SG Vs Prashant Bhushan [Courtroom Exchange]

Sanya Talwar
21 April 2020 9:08 AM GMT
Cant You Help Workers Other than Filing PILs?, SG Vs Prashant Bhushan [Courtroom Exchange]
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While the Apex Court on Tuesday heard a petition seeking directions from the Government for payment of wages to migrant workers during the Covid19 induced lockdown, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that "some people's social work was only confined to filing Public Interest Litigations".A bench comprising Justices Justices NV Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul & BR Gavai was hearing...

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While the Apex Court on Tuesday heard a petition seeking directions from the Government for payment of wages to migrant workers during the Covid19 induced lockdown, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that "some people's social work was only confined to filing Public Interest Litigations".

A bench comprising Justices Justices NV Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul & BR Gavai was hearing the petition filed by Activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj which emphased on the need for providing access to basic neccesities, food and shelter to migrant workers, who had found themselves in dire straits in light of the nationwide imposed lockdown.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta remarked that while thousands of organisations were running shoulder to shoulder and working in consonance of the Government in these trying times, some people's social work remained confined to filing PIL's from the comfort of their homes.

The submissions came after Advocate Prashant Bhushan who was appearing for the Activists submitted that there were studies on record to suggest that more than 11,000 workers had not been paid minimum wages since imposition of the lockdown, one month ago.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta added,

"Who said that nobody is paid? Can't your organization help the workers in any other way rather than filing PILs?"

To this, Advocate Prashant Bhushan rebutted, stating that the petitioners had already done their bit and had been distributing food.

During this exchange, the bench observed that these were in fact unusual circumstances and all stakeholders involved were trying to do their best to ensure welfare of the public at large.

On April 3, while the same PIL was heard by the Top Court, the Solicitor General had stated that "PIL Shops must close down till the country emerges out of this crisis"

Before a bench of Justices L Nagewara Rao & Deepak Gupta, the Solicitor General had stated "Preparing PILs without any ground level information or knowledge while sitting in an air-conditioned office was not 'public service'".

Earlier last week, when a plea filed by Swami Agnivesh which had sought immediate relief to be provided to the poor during the Coronavirus crisis came up for hearing, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves who appeared for Swami Agnivesh had submitted that the lockdown had created a huge crisis and that there was no real groundwork being done as against what the Solicitor General was claiming.

 Tushar Mehta remarked;

"I have serious reservations regarding this particular petition. These are self employment generating petitions .This Court should not entertain such petitions. I have severe problems regarding the kind of petitions that are landing before the Court during these times", Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said.

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