The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the State Governments of Maharashtra and NCT of Delhi for not filing affidavits regarding the implementation of statutes for the welfare of migrant workers in compliance with its July 31 Order.
The Bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah communicated that their previous Order was passed with a view to ascertain the manner in which States were taking action with regard to helping migrant workers.
Pointing out that these two States had the maximum number of migrant workers, the Court expressed its displeasure stating that non-filing of affidavits reflected the lack of interest of the concerned states in dealing with the plight of the migrant workers.
"Although various States have filed their reply but the States of Maharashtra and NCT of Delhi have not filed their affidavits in compliance of our order dated 31.07.2020.
The States of Maharasthra and Delhi are the States where the maximum number of migrants have come and are working...
...When the Court passed specific order directing the States to file affidavits, the Court's intention was to see the working of the aforesaid acts. Non-filing of affidavit clearly indicates that the States are not interested in implementing the aforesaid enactments."
- Reads the Order
However, having considered the request of the counsels appearing for both governments, the Court allowed a further two week period to Maharashtra, Delhi and any other State which has not filed an affidavit to do so.
"We grant further two weeks' time to the States of Maharashtra and NCT of Delhi as well as to the other States, who have not filed their affidavit in compliance of order dated 31.07.2020."
On July 31, the Court had granted all States/Union Territories 3 weeks' time to bring on record details of migrants workers who were back in their native places vis-à-vis their skill, earlier place and nature of employment in compliance with its June 9 order.
The Court had also taken note of the non-compliance of states and UTs with directions laid down in its June 9 order which contemplated with respect to registration of workers in terms of enactments, namely, Interstate Migrant workmen (Regulations of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 & Unorganized Workers' Social Security Act, 2008.
On July 31, the Top Court specifically considered the affidavit filed by the State of Maharashtra which indicated that certain migrants were still waiting to return to their native place from the State at that time.
Further, it was noted that despite steps taken by states and UTs in terms of the Top Court's directions to transport migrant workers within 15 days back to their native places as per the June 9 order, "there are still migrant workers stranded in different States including State of Maharashtra".
"Submissions have been made before us that necessary registration under the aforementioned enactments have not been made by respective States due to which large number of migrant workers and unorganised labourers are unable to reap benefits of the said enactments", recorded the Court on July 31.
In May, the Top Court had taken took Suo Motu cognisance of the problems and miseries of migrant labourers who have been stranded in different parts of the country amid the Coronavirus-induced lockdown.
Vide a suo motu order titled "IN RE: Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers" the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul & MR Shah state that even though the issue is being addressed at both State and Central levels, "effective and concentrated efforts are required to redeem the situation".
In this backdrop, the Court had passed a slew of significant directions such as non-charging of fares for migrant workers for travel, providing free of cost food by the concerned state and UT to them, simplifying and speeding up the process of registration of migrants and ensuring that those walking on roads are immediately taken to shelters and provided food.
Subsequently, on June 5, before reserving orders after hearing Centre, State and few intervenors, the bench had observed that it was mulling to grant 15 days time to authorities to transport migrants to their native places. It went on to pass directions in this regard:
1) All States and UTs to identify stranded migrants and transport them back to native places within 15 days;
2) States to consider withdrawal of all cases filed against migrants under Disaster Management Act for lockdown violations, for attempting to walk to native places, crowding at stations etc;
3) In event of demand of Shramiktrains, the railways shall provide trains within 24 hours;
4) Provide all schemes to migrant workers and publicise them. Help desks to be established to help migrants to avail employment opportunities;
5) Centre and states to prepare a list for identification of migrant workers in a streamlined manner;
6) Employment relief to be mapped out and skill-mapping to be carried out for migrants;
7) Counselling centres to be established to find a way back for return travel, if they want to.
On June 19, the bench clarified that its June 9 order for transportation of migrant workers to their hometowns within 15 days was mandatory.