New Delhi: After weeks of refraining from interfering with the migrant crisis triggered by the Covid lockdown, the Supreme Court Tuesday took suo motu cognisance of the “problems and miseries of migrant labourers who had been stranded in different parts of the country”.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.R. Shah took cognisance of media reports showing migrant labourers walking on foot and cycling for hundreds of kilometres to get back home. It also said it had received letters and representations from various sections of the society on the issue.
“They have also been complaining of not being provided food and water by the administration at places where they were stranded or in the way i.e. highways from which they proceeded on foot, cycles or other modes of transport,” the bench noted in its order.
It then ordered the central and the state governments to immediately provide “adequate transport arrangement, food and shelters” free of cost to these migrants.
The court also asserted even though the central as well as state governments had taken measures, there were “inadequacies and certain lapses”.
‘We are of the view that effective concentrated efforts are required to redeem the situation,” it asserted.
The court then issued notices to the Centre, state and union territory administrations to submit their responses at the earliest.
It said it will hear the matter on 28 May, and directed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist the court and inform it of all the steps taken by the central government so far.
Cannot ‘monitor’ walking migrants
The suo motu cognisance comes 10 days after the Supreme Court on 15 May dismissed an application seeking relief for migrant labourers who were walking back thousands of kilometres to their native states.
A bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, S.K. Kaul and B.R. Gavai had then observed it was not possible for it to “monitor” the situation.
“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 had said.
The apex court had come under criticism for this order, especially after three high courts — Madras, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi — had issued directions to the central and state governments demanding several measures for these labourers, the same day.
Over the past two months, over a dozen high courts have issued directions on the migrant crisis, some taking note of the situation suo motu, while others springing into action on petitions filed before them.
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