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'How Can We Stop Them From Walking?' : SC Refuses To Entertain Plea For Migrants On Road

Radhika Roy
15 May 2020 9:27 AM GMT
How Can We Stop Them From Walking? : SC Refuses To Entertain Plea For Migrants On Road
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The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed 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. The IA was filed in the wake of the death of 16 migrant labourers in Aurangabad.

A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, S K Kaul and B R Gavai observed that it was not possible for the Court to monitor the situation, and said that it is up to the State Governments to take appropriate actions in that regard.

"How can we stop them from walking? It is impossible for this Court to monitor who is walking and who is not walking?", observed Justice L Nageswara Rao, who led the bench.

Not inclined to entertain the matter, Justice S K Kaul, another judge in the bench, observed,

"Every advocate reads something suddenly and then you want us to decide issues under Article 32 of the Constitution of India based on your knowledge of newspapers? Will you go and implement government directives? We will give you a special pass and you go and check".

The IA, filed by Petitioner-in-Person Alakh Alok Srivastava, stated that the urgent interference of the Apex Court was needed in light of the heart-wrenching incident which had taken place at Gadhejalgaon village in Aurangabad District (Maharashtra) on 8th May at 5.30AM wherein at least 16 migrant workers who were walking on foot from Maharasthra to Madhya Pradesh had been killed by a train.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre,  submitted to the Bench that the government had already started providing transport from one State to another:

"The Government has already started helping migrant workers. But, they are not waiting for their turn and they start walking. Subject to interstate agreement, everybody will get a chance to travel. Using force on them can be counterproductive. They may wait for their turn, rather than starting on foot."

He further submitted that if people got angry and started on foot instead of waiting for the transport to be provided, nothing could be done. The government could only request that people should not walk.

In light of these submissions, the Bench dismissed the Interim Application.

Various media reports were referred to in the IA and it was submitted to the Court that there were many other similar incidents wherein poor migrant labourers had died due to hunger or road accidents in their bid to return to their native places by walking on foot.

The IA further referred to a statement made by Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta during a hearing which took place on 31st March that had been recorded by the Apex Court in its Order dated 31.03.2020: "There is no person walking on the roads in an attempt to reach his/her hometowns/villages".

The IA also submitted that, considering the seriousness of the situation and the lack of appropriate action on behalf of the Centre, the probability of loss of several precious lives of the migrant labourers had increased.

Therefore, directions were sought for District Magistrates of each and every district of India "to immediately identify such moving/stranded migrant workers in their respective Districts, immediately shift them to the nearest shelter homes/camps, provide them sufficient food, water, medicines and counselling etc. and upon proper medical examination, ensure to send them to their respective native villages, with utmost dignity".

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