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'The Walking Migrants Of This Country Need You' : Sr Adv Jaideep Gupta Urges SC To 'Pick Up The Brief Again'

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
16 May 2020 9:56 AM GMT

'The Supreme Court could have done a lot', he said.

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Expressing anguish at the passive response of the Supreme Court to the issue of migrant workers crisis amid the COVID-19 lockdown, Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta commented that the top court "could have done a lot".

The Senior Advocate reminded that the judiciary was meant to create checks and balances against the executive and the legislature. Though the SC has gone beyond the confines of law and its jurisdiction by using Public Interest Litigation to "nudge the government" on policy issues, the senior counsel said that when it came to the issue of migrant workers, the Court "refused to address the problem".

"The decades of development of this jurisdiction (PIL jurisdiction) to rectify everything from bonded labour to sardarji jokes now stands in danger of being wiped out at the time of the gravest crisis of the citizens of this country", he said.

"The migrants walk home is not a casual irresponsible act of a citizen. It's a moment of existential crisis for them. The Supreme Court could have done a lot. Only they could have", he posted in Facebook.

Elaborating on the things which could have been done by the Court, he said :

"They could have inquired into why the problem was persisting even after it has been in the public limelight for weeks. They could have sought a scheme from the government, and put its enormous influence to the execution of the scheme. They could have ironed out the differences between states and centre that we keep hearing politicians complain about. They could have assured the walking migrants that they will put their full weight behind their plight. They could have wiped the tear off their faces by making a single observation that they will look into their plight and do whatever they can about it".

Mr Gupta noted that not to do even this much is such a disappointment. 

"Pick up the brief again, my Lords. The walking migrants who are worthy citizens of this country need you. We need you", he said in conclusion.

The Facebook post came in the context of the Supreme Court refusing to entertain a petition seeking measures to help migrants who are forced to walk back to their native places due to unavailability of regular transport options.

"How can we stop them from walking? It is impossible for this Court to monitor who is walking and who is not walking?", the bench orally observed while dismissing an application seeking urgent directions to all DMs across India to identify walking labourers and to ensure that they reach their native places, free of cost and in a dignified manner.

Migrant Workers Cases : SC Failed To Rise To The Occasion

Last week, Justice(Retd) Kailash Gambhir, former judge of the Delhi HC, had opined that the SC could have been more proactive to protect the migrants.

On Friday, the Madras HC suo moto sought an action taken report from the State Government and the Centre on the steps taken for the relief of migrants.

"It is a pity to see the migrant labourers walking for days together to reach their native places and in the process, some of them had lost their lives due to accidents. The Government authorities of all the States should have extended their human services to those migrant labourers", observed the HC bench comprising Justices N Kirubakaran and R Hemalatha.

Recently, the Karnataka HC had directed the Centre and the State Government to take steps to ensure that no migrant is deprived of an opportunity to travel back to native place on account of incapacity to pay rail fare.

The Gujarat HC on Monday had taken suo moto notice of the migrants issue, observing that many are going hungry and are suffering the worst on account of lockdown.

On Saturday morning, 23 migrants trying to reach their homes died in a road accident - the latest in a serious of many such tragedies which have taken place since the lockdown.

Read the full text of Sr Adv Jaideep Gupta's Facebook post :

"The judiciary was created to create checks and balances against the Executive and the Legislature. The Supreme Court is at the apex of the judicial pyramid. For decades the Supreme Court has gone beyond the confines of law and it's own jurisdiction by using Public Interest Litigation to nudge the government on policy issues. Even some issues which were trivial and unimportant. While locking down the nation to tackle the pandemic, the executive did not foresee the migrant labour problem. Even after the scale of the problem became clear the responses continue to be inadequate. So people approached the Supreme Court on their behalf. Repeatedly the Supreme Court has refused to address the problem. The decades of development of this jurisdiction to rectify everything from bonded labour to sardarji jokes now stands in danger of being wiped out at the time of the gravest crisis of the citizens of this country. The migrants walk home is not a casual irresponsible act of a citizen. It's a moment of existential crisis for them. The Supreme Court could have done a lot. Only they could have. They could have inquired into why the problem was persisting even after it has been in the public limelight for weeks. They could have sought a scheme from the government, and put its enormous influence to the execution of the scheme. They could have ironed out the differences between states and centre that we keep hearing politicians complain about. They could have assured the walking migrants that they will put their full weight behind their plight. They could have wiped the tear off their faces by making a single observation that they will look into their plight and do whatever they can about it. Not to do even this much is a such a disappointment. It pains me to say this but can they not see that this lessens the institution in the hearts of the citizens of India. Can they not see that they enormous prestige that they enjoy and that gives them their authority and endears them to the citizens of this country is hurt by this. Pick up the brief again, my Lords. The walking migrants who are worthy citizens of this country need you. We need you".

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