Karnataka High Court: The Division Bench of Abhay Sreenivas Oka, CJ, and B.V. Nagrathna, J., took the Government of Karnataka to task for not having a clear stand on the issue of paying the train fares of the migrants who wish return to their State of Origin.   

Before focussing on the migrant’s issues, the Court took notice of the ‘shocking’ response by the State Government in dealing with the issue of marriage in the house of a prominent politician on 17-04-2020. The Bench observed that how the administration went out of their way to ensure that the marriage is organised; and that there is no clarity on whether the Lockdown Guidelines issued by the Central Government in the month of April were followed properly or not. Refusing to waste it’s time on the issue, the Court then sought to address the, issues of migrant workers who are stranded on the streets.  The Court observed that from 17-05-2020, various ‘shramik trains’ have been allowed to transport 70,000 migrants from the State of Karnataka to their home States. It was noted that the Government of Karnataka is bearing the travel expenses of the migrants working in other States who originally belong to the State of Karnataka. However, the stand taken vis-a-vis the migrants in the State who want to go back to their States of origin is that, unless the corresponding States to which the migrants wish to travel, agree to bear the train fare, the migrant will have to pay the train fare. It was argued that Government’s differentiation of migrants on basis of their State of Origin is violative of Articles 14, 15 and 19 (1) (d) of the Constitution. The Additional Advocate General appearing for the State Government submitted that the Supreme Court has already dealt with the issue.   

Upon perusal of the facts and arguments, the Bench observed that the Central Government’s stand on the issue that “in case of migrant workers from other States which have not agreed to pay the train fare of the migrant workers, the State Government will have to pay the fare to the Railways and thereafter, take up the matter with the corresponding States for reimbursement of the amounts”.

Thus the Court directed the State Government to clarify whether it wants to stray from the stand taken by the Centre; or they really want to take a stand along the line that, a migrant worker who has no income and is not in a position to pay Railway fare will not be allowed to travel by special trains to his home State. [ Mohd. Arif Jameel v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 538 , decided on 18-05-2020]

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