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Centre, States to provide free transport and food for migrants -Supreme Court


On Tuesday, a three judge Bench of Supreme Court, led by Ashok Bhushan ordered the Centre and State to provide free of cost transport, food and shelter to the stranding migrant workers. The Supreme Court said that although the Central and the State government have been taking measures but they have been inadequate and there have been certain lapses while dealing with the migrant workers. Therefore, Supreme Court took a decision to provide free transport, food and shelter to the migrant workers.

A formal notice was issued were it was asked by the Solicitor General of India “Tushar Mehta” to assist the court and produce the report and responses by 28th May 2020 on the measures taken by the Centre and States and the Union Territories so far to eliminate the sufferings of the migrant workers, as it was urgent.

The suo motu cognisance of media reports were taken by the judges in their chambers. It came to the knowledge referring to the newspaper and media reports that the helpless migrants were forced to travel thousands of miles on foot or bicycles during the lockdown.

There were also representations given by the senior lawyers to protect the fundamental rights of the migrant workers which was done in the judge’s chambers. The Supreme Court received a letter from 10 senior lawyers each from Delhi and Mumbai. The letter had a critical face of “self-effacing defence” to the government, “unwillingness” and “apparent indifference” in the face of the “enormous humanitarian crisis.” The senior lawyers included P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Prashant Bhusan, Indira Jaising, Vikas Singh, Iqbal Chawla, Navroz Seervai, Anand Grover, Mohan Katarki, Siddharth Luthra, Santosh Paul, Mahalaxmi Pavani, C.U. Singh, Aspi Chinoy Mihir Desai, Rajani Iyer, Yusuf Muchhala, Rajiv Patil, Gayatri Singh and Sanjay Singhvi. The court received the letter late on Monday, 25th May, 2020 and the court decided to take suo motu cognizance of the “miseries and problems” of the migrant workers on Tuesday, 26th May, 2020. The Court then scheduled to hear the case on Thursday, May 28, 2020. The letter said that the migrant workers issues are not “policy issues” but constitutional issues to which the court has the power under Article 142 to take any measures to do complete justice. The letter also stated that the show of helpessness does not do justice to the court’s motto of Yato dharmastato Jaya.

On Wednesday 27th May 2020, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala approached the court for permission to intervene in the suo motu case. His representative said that the government does not have nationwide plan to tally the exact number of migrants stranding; they need to work with grassroots administrative mechanism to create an accurate list of the migrant workers.

The court held that even after so many effective measures the crisis continues even today and a large number of migrant workers are still moving around on the roads, highways, railway stations and state borders. The court noted that to overcome these crisis an effective and concentrated efforts are required.

-Ananya Tripathi.