Delhi High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Manmohan and Asha Menon, JJ., addressed the present writ petition with regards to right to health and livelihood of migrant workers of Delhi. The Bench directed Delhi government to frame a Scheme incorporating a structured response for the ‘home-based worker’, ‘self-employed worker’ and ‘unorganized worker’, as defined under the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, within two weeks. The Bench expressed,
“In view of the scale and magnitude of pandemic Covid-19, a structured response by the administration is required so that the voiceless and the marginalized sections of the society can be given proper and adequate relief.”
Right to health and livelihood of migrant workers
The instant petition to seek registration of all migrant workers of Delhi under Section 10 of the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 (the Act, 2008) and to provide free medicines and medical facilities to them. The petitioner had sought for the directions to the GNCTD to fulfil its obligations under The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 and to pay money under the income transfer scheme to all migrant workers of NCT Delhi. Reliance was placed on the Directive Principles of State Policy as enshrined in the Constitution to submit that the government is bound to protect the welfare of the people, especially that of the working class under Article 43 of the Constitution of India. It was also submitted that under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, various Central and State funds have been created and that the government can make use of these funds to ensure that the migrant workers are well taken care of.
Stand taken by Government of NCTD
The government had contended before the Court that various steps had already been taken to ameliorate the condition of the migrant workmen as well as those working in the unorganised sector. It was submitted that provisions for free shelter, food and medicare had been made. Also, Rs. 98,96,70,000/- had been disbursed to 2,10,684 workers under order dated 20-04-2021 passed by the Chief Secretary under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
Counter Argument by the Petitioner
In rejoinder, the petitioner stated that the steps mentioned in the order dated 20-04-2021 specifically relate to and were restricted to the workers under The Building and Other Construction Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 and till date no scheme had been made to give benefit to the workers under the Act, 2008 as the government do not have any database to locate and identify the migrant workers.
Directions by the Court
The Court expressed that in view of the scale and magnitude of pandemic Covid-19, a structured response by the administration is required so that the voiceless and the marginalized sections of the society can be given proper and adequate relief. Accordingly, the Court directed the government to treat the instant petition as a representation to the Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi and frame a Scheme incorporating a structured response for the ‘home-based worker’, ‘self-employed worker’ and ‘unorganized worker, as defined under the Act, 2008, within two weeks. Additionally, the Court directed,
“While framing the scheme, the Chief Secretary shall keep in mind the prayers sought for in the present writ petition, including the prayer for payment of ex gratia amount to the unorganized workers and the migrant workers.”
The Chief Secretary was also directed to ensure that the registration process under Section 10 of the Act, 2008 is simplified and is implemented at the ground level. Considering the gigantic magnitude of the pandemic, the Court directed the Chief Secretary to consider involving elected representatives as well as the civil society at large in particular NGOs, Gurudwaras etc. who have a good track record and who have been working with the administration in the past to aid the government.
[Abhijeet Kumar Pandey v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1859, decided on 03-05-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together
Appearance before the Court by:
Counsel for the Petitioners: Mr. Varun Singh with Mr. Ytharth Kumar and Mr.
Counsel for the Union of India: Mr. Amit Mahajan with Mr. Gitesh Chopra
Counsel for GNCTD: ASC Mr. Gautam Narayan with Ms. Asmita Singh