Migrants workers and laboures who were travelling to their respective places are sitting on the road and waiting for their turn to be screened at Uttar Pradesh - Patna border | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
Migrants workers and laboures who were travelling to their respective places are sitting on the road and waiting for their turn to be screened at Uttar Pradesh-Patna border | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
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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.

Also read: Judiciary has left citizens to fend for themselves, says Supreme Court lawyer Dushyant Dave

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.

Also read: 11 orders in over 2 dozen Covid cases — how Gujarat HC has put BJP govt in the dock

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4 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Strange but true that it took SC almost 2 months and order by 12 HC to realize that executive branch of India had failed to address issues that it created for citizens of that tantamount-ed to turning lock-down with 4 hours notice without any consideration for elderly, disabled, pregnant women, migrant workers and others lockup.

    SC taking notice of issues is good but it will take some time to win back trust of citizens to take timely action.

  2. It is possible the apex court has been moved by some of the fine orders high courts have been passing in this matter, in the highest traditions of the Indian judiciary.

  3. I am absolutely appalled with our SC. What has Narendra Modi through Ravi Shankar Prasad done to it? Is this the way you destroy a country’s most respected institution? I thought “that fellow” Ranjan Gogoi had retired! But they all seem to be under his spell! (I am sorry I cannot take his name with more respect). A man like Goswami gets a hearing as well as protection within 24 hours, the 370 thing is still not heard, Rafale case is still not re-heard even when Modi government themselves pointed our that there was a misinterpretation, and now TWO MONTHS after Modi declared a lockdown at 4-hour notice, the honorable Supreme Court is talking of free food and shelter etc. Is this the way you treat your poor? Is this the New India we are hurtling towards, under the camera-savvy Narendra Modi’s leadership?


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