Kerala High Court: A Division Bench of S. Manikumar, CJ, and Shaji P. Chaly, J., while reviewing reports on conditions of migrant labourers in labour camps situated within the State of Kerala, held that a conjoint reading of Articles 21 and 51-A of the Constitution makes it clear that the State has an onerous duty to ensure the well being, life and liberty of every citizen, which includes the migrant workers as well. Therefore, the State Government has a duty to guarantee that the employers are providing appropriate shelter to the migrant workers, a clean environment and a healthy living condition along with other basic amenities. It is also the duty of the State Government to see that employers are satisfying the requirements in accordance with the prevailing laws with respect to the wages, contribution to welfare funds of the migrant labourers. The State Government is also responsible for ensuring adequate measures for curbing ill-treatment of the labourers in any manner by the employers.

With the aforementioned observations, the Court issued the following directions for the State Government so that they can effectively ensure the protection of life and liberty of the migrant workers as envisioned by the framers of the Constitution-

  • If any information is received by the State Government and its officials in respect of any ill-treatment of the migrant labourers from any responsible corners, quick action shall be taken for ensuring their well being and life and liberty.
  • In the light of Covid-19 pandemic, if any of the migrant labourers expressed their intention to go back to their native State, adequate steps shall be taken by the State Government through its Offices to ensure return of such migrant workers subject to the lockdown restrictions.
  • Government shall ensure that migrant workers are not forcibly detained by the employers
  • While taking steps for migrant welfare, the State Government and the concerned authorities must take steps in gathering the details of identity and other information of the migrants remaining within the State and those who will return to the State post Covid-19. This step is essential in order to nab the migrants who involve themselves in criminal activities.
  • The State Government is free to frame an appropriate Legislation or Rules in regard to the stay and management of the migrants within the State instead of issuing fragmented notifications/circulars/orders to satisfy the requirements of a particular issue cropping up.

[Suo Moto v. State of Kerala, WP(C) No. 23724 of 2016, decided on 01-07-2020]

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