Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah, JJ has directed that a Common National Database for all organised workers situate in different States in the entire country, which may serve registration for extending different schemes by the States and Centre, be created at the earliest so as to ensure that the organised workers are able to reap the benefits of the Government Schemes.

“…for accessing of any benefit percolating from any scheme framed by the Centre or the States for the benefit of unorganized workers or migrant workers, registration of workers is essential, which registration shall facilitate the unorganized workers to assess the scheme and reap the benefit.”

Currently there is no uniform process of registration. There are separate registration of workers under the Building and Other Construction Workers’(Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996. Under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, all States have framed the Rules and some States have also undertaken registration under the aforesaid Acts but no State has given any details as to whether registration under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 is complete.

The Court, however, noticed that the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 now stand repealed by the Code of Social Security Act, 2020 (Act No.36 of 2020 published in the Gazette of India on 29.09.2020). By Section 164 of the Code, several enactments have been repealed including the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 and the Building and other Construction Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996. In Section 112 of the Code of Social Security, 2020, registration of unorganized workers, gig workers and platform workers is contemplated. The Court, hence, asked the Union of India to apprise it on steps which are proposed to be taken n this regard.

The Court also asked the Central Government and the State Government to complete the process of registration of organized workers at an early date so that unorganized workers are able to reap the benefit of different schemes of the Centre and the States, which without proper registration and identity card seems to be difficult to implement on the ground. A detailed affidavit is to be filed within 2 weeks.

Further, there shall be suitable mechanism to monitor and supervise whether the benefits of the welfare schemes reach the beneficiaries which may be from grassroot levels to higher authorities with names & places of beneficiaries so that the purposes for such schemes are floated is achieved.

The Court also asked all the States to file affidavits indicating the mechanism by which the dry ration should be distributed to those migrant workers, who does not possess a ration card.

“Whether the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme of the Union of India, which was implemented for giving dry rations to migrant workers in May and June, 2020 is to be utilized or some other scheme has to be utilized is a matter for States to take a decision but the dry ration has to be distributed to the migrant workers throughout the country by the States.”

The Court, however, directed that migrant workers wherever stranded throughout the country should be provided the dry ration under the Atma Nirbhar Scheme or any other scheme is found suitable by the States/Centre.

Regarding Community Kitchen, the Court noticed that it is the responsibility of the States/Union Territories to provide Community Kitchen to the stranded migrant workers, who have lost their employment and are in need of two meals a day and hence, they should make operational the community kitchen to the stranded migrant workers wherever they may situate in the country.

“There shall be wide publicity with respect to the various schemes including the places of community kitchens so that such needy persons may in fact take benefits.”

Regarding direct cash transfer to unorganised workers, the Court said that

“… cash transfer is a matter of policy and scheme framed by each State/Union Territory and no direction for cash transfer can be issued by this Court to any category of person unless they are covered by any scheme formulated by the State/Union Territory.”

[IN RE : PROBLEMS AND MISERIES OF MIGRANT LABOURERS, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 398, order dated 24.05.2021]

For petitioner: Advocate Prashant Bhushan,

For Union of India: SG Tushar Mehta and ASG Aishwarya Bhati

For States: Maninder Singh for the State of Gujarat, Garima Prashad for the State of U.P., Ranjit Kumar for the State of Bihar, Rahul Chitnis for the State of Maharashtra and Sanjay Kumar Visen for the State of Haryana.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Division Bench of Sanjay Karol, CJ., and Shivaji Pandey, J., addressed the issue of spiraling rise in Covid-19 cases in the state.

The Bench, while resisting to pass any further order stated that the State of Bihar should give the required details on each and every aspect of the matter, such as, availability of medicines, black-marketing and also availability of oxygen gas cylinders in the rural areas, especially the district hospitals because the migrants are coming and there is a chance that the person in the rural area may get infected.

The Bench directed, the State should ensure that the medicines as well as all infrastructures are made available at the district level also. The State must also ensure early vaccination of the age group 18 to 45 years, as it is large chunk of the population and reportedly, the death rate of that class is very high.

[Shivani Kaushik v. Union of India, Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No. 353 of 2021, order dated 07-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner/s: Shivani Kaushik (In Person)

For the UOI: Dr K.N. Singh (ASG)

For the State: Anjani Kumar, AAG-4

For the Respondent 5: Mrs Binita Singh

For Respondent 6: Shivender Kishore,

For PMC: Prasoon Sinha

 

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

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.
Abhijeet Pandey

Counsel for the Union of India: Mr. Amit Mahajan with Mr. Gitesh Chopra

Counsel for GNCTD: ASC Mr. Gautam Narayan with Ms. Asmita Singh

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, JJ., while addressing the present petition expressed that:

COVID-19 pandemic is presently raging with much greater intensity than prevalent at the time when this petition was initiated in the year 2020.

It has been noted that the number of COVID-19 positive patients, as reported on a daily basis has exceeded 25,000 in the NCT of Delhi.

Court observed that the test positivity rates (TPR) are rising continually, with around 1/3rd of all districts in the country having a positivity rate of more than 10%. The TPR was more than 13% as on 15.04.2021. According to medical estimates, around 15 to 20% of these patients could require hospital admissions, with a quarter of them requiring specialized ICU care.

Above position translates to a requirement of roughly 50,000 beds daily in the country, which has already pushed the limited health care system beyond its limits.

It is evident that the health care infrastructure is on the verge of an imminent and complete collapse.

It was stated that GNCTD is being unreasonable and unmindful of the limitations of men, infrastructure and equipment available to deal with the massive surge in COVID-19 positive cases.

Bench observed that because of the large numbers of samples, labs that have been entrusted with the job of collecting and analyzing samples of COVID-19 through RT PCR Tests are already hard pressed. Court stated that it does not serve the interest of any such lab to delay the reports deliberately or negligently.

Hence, Court added that it hopes and expects:

  • all the labs to continue to work efficiently and diligently in order to prepare and provide the reports of the tests conducted by them at the earliest humanly possible.
  • None of the accredited labs would refuse to take samples on account of the rush, if they are otherwise in a position to collect the samples.

Another issue before the Court was with respect to the shortage of supply of medical oxygen which is a critical requirement for treatment of serious patients of COVID-19. Mr Mehra pointed that the Central Government had already issued orders that, except to meet the needs of a few industries, the supply of oxygen manufactured in the country should be provided for medical use in the country.

He further added that:

“…shortage of oxygen may result in steep rise in loss of lives.” 

Bench stated that let Central Government look into the above matter on an urgent basis.

It was submitted that M/s INOX, which has existing contracts with hospitals in Delhi, is diverting the oxygen produced by it to other states.

To the above issue, High Court directed INOX to honour its contracts with the GNCTD and hospitals in Delhi and restore the supply of 140 MT of oxygen immediately – which shall, in turn, be distributed to the needy hospitals of Delhi.

Central Government should examine the availability of oxygen in different states in the country in the context of the spread of the pandemic so that oxygen could be made available to the areas where it is most required, looking at the surge in covid cases.

 High Court directed Centre and GNCTD to file affidavits disclosing – in respect of hospitals manages by them, hospital-wise, the number of COVID beds reserved, further how many ICU Beds with or without ventilator and with or without oxygen supply.

Affidavits should also state as to how many COVID beds have been allocated by the Central Government to GNCTD in ICU/non-ICU and with/ without ventilators, and with, or without, oxygen.

Another aspect which the Court highlighted was the plight of daily wagers and migrant labour force as was seen in the year 2020 on imposition of lockdown. It has been noted that a lot of them have started going back to their origin states with the surge in COVID cases in the GNCTD.

“…daily wagers – who are hand to mouth, and earn their bread everyday to feed themselves and their families, are once again faced with the grim reality of facing shortage of even basic necessities such as food, clothing and medication, due to the curfew imposed till 26th April, 2021.”

Bench remarked that:

GNCTD failed to utilize thousands of crores of rupees they are sitting on, which is available with the Board constituted under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, and which has been collected as Building cess for construction workers. The registration of lakhs of building workers – which had lapsed on account of non-renewal, were not provided any ex gratia payment.

GNCTD to ensure that the above stated Board shall utilize the monies lying with it, inter alia, to provide food, medicines and other necessities to the needy construction workers at their respective work sites.

Provision of Food

Lastly, the Court held that for the purpose of providing food, the GNCTD should utilise the contractors engaged for providing mid-day meals to school children in Government and MCD Schools, since the schools are not operational currently, and that facility could still be utilized for the aforesaid purpose. The Chief Secretary, Delhi shall ensure the implementation of this direction without any delay.

Matter shall be taken up today post-lunch session. [Rakesh Malhotra v. GNCTD, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1800, decided on 19-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Respondents:

Mr Satyakam, ASC, for the GNCTD/ respondent Nos. 1 & 2.

Mr Rahul Mehra, Standing Counsel (Crl.) for GNCTD.

Ms Monica Arora, Adv. for Mr Chetan Sharma, ASG

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah, JJ has asked all States/UTs have to file affidavits on compliance of certain directions passed vide order dated 09.06.2020.

On 09.06.2020, the Court had directed all the States/Union Territories to take all necessary steps regarding identification of stranded migrant workers in their State which are willing to return to their native places and take steps for their return journey by train/bus. It has also issued other directions that included a direction to all States/UTs to make rules under the following 3 statutes:

  1. Inter­State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979;
  2. Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act , 1996 and;
  3. Unorganized workers’ Social Security Act, 2008.

The Court had directed that short term and long term measures be taken under the newly framed Rules and a report be submitted to it. The Court, however, noticed

“Although several States have made rules under the above enactments but all necessary details regarding the steps taken by concerned States have not been brought on record.”

It, hence, directed that affidavit be filed by all the States/UTs indicating the steps taken by them with respect to above mentioned enactments within a period of three months.

In order dated 09.06.2020, the Court had also asked the concerned States and Union Territories to maintain record of all such migrant workers, who have arrived at different places. None of the States/Union Territories have, however, filed any affidavit giving details of the compliance of the aforesaid direction. Asking the States and UTs to file affidavits regarding the same within a period of three weeks, the bench said,

“The States are required to bring on record the mode and manner in which records of migrant labourers who have reached their native places are being maintained with their skill, nature of employment and other details.”

The Court made clear that the affidavits to be filed by States/Union Territories, details with regard to compliance of other directions as issued by this Court on 09.06.2020 be also detailed.

On Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s  submissions on the issue of food security, health insurance for migrant labourers, presumption of work by migrant labourers and relaxation on insistence on registration, The Court said that it would consider the same after the necessary affidavits as indicated above are filed  by the States/Union Territories.

[IN RE: PROBLEMS AND MISERIES OF MIGRANT LABOURERS, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 613 , order dated 31.07.2020]


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Order dated 09.06.2020 on directions for transportation of migrant workers


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Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

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]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ pulled up State of Maharashtra for submitting that it did not do the needful for arranging transportation of migrants who were still stranded in the State as it was not informed of the materials.

“The present is not an adversarial litigation and it is the duty of the State to find out shortcomings and lapses wherever found and to do the needful. The State cannot claim that unless the State is informed of the materials, it cannot reply or act.”

The Court was hearing the interim applications filed by Sarva Hara Jan Andolan and Delhi Sharmik Sangathan on 07.07.2020 where details with regard to the State of Maharashtra, migrants who are still awaiting to return and other difficulties faced in the State of Maharashtra were narrated.

The Court asked the State of Maharashtra to file affidavit by July 17, 2020 and give other details with regard to migrants who are still awaiting to return to their home town in the State of Maharashtra.

Earlier, on 09.06.2020, the bench had  directed all the States/Union Territories to take all necessary steps regarding identification of stranded migrant workers in their State which are willing to return to their native places and take steps for their return journey by train/bus which process may be completed within a period of 15 days.

The Court noticed that lapses and short-comings in implementing the schemes and policies have been highlighted by various intervenors in their applications and affidavits.

“The responsibility of the States/Union Territories is not only to referring their policy, measures contemplated, funds allocated but there has to be strict vigilance and supervision as to whether those measures, schemes, benefits reaches to those to whom they are meant.”

The Court had, on 26.05.2020, taken up the issue suo motu based on, newspaper and media reports and several letters and representations it received from different sections of society highlighting the problem of migrant labourers. The Court had directed the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist the Court and by the next date of hearing bring in the notice of the Court all measures and steps taken by the Government of India and to be taken in this regard. After receiving the response from the Government, the Court had issued certain interim directions on May 28, 2020.

[IN RE : PROBLEMS AND MISERIES OF MIGRANT LABOURERS, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 563 , order dated 09.07.2020]


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COVID-19| Transportation of stranded migrant workers must be completed in next 15 days

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: Prathiba M. Singh, J., while addressing a matter with regard to protection of migrant workers, held that, there is dire need to create a mechanism for the registration of migrant workers, so that they can be protected and benefits of relevant Acts can be passed onto them.

Present petition was filed to seek the implementation of Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979.

GNCTD pursuant to the last order of the Court placed on record an affidavit stating that as far as the the 1979 Act is concerned, there are no registered contractors under the said Act.

In so far as the registration of Migrant Workers under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, GNCTD had disclosed that there are various schemes which are available for construction workers.

Further it has been submitted that the registered workers under the above act have been disbursed financial assistance.

GNCTD also informed the Court that the Shramik helpline was made operational during the lockdown period to assist the migrants.

It is stated that no contractor or employer working in NCT Delhi has made any application for issue of registration or grant of a licence, under the 1979 Act. However, it is also mentioned that the Shram Suvidha portal of the Ministry enables online issuance of licences and registrations under the 1979 Act.

Thus, in view of the above Court stated that,

“… there is a dire need for creating a mechanism for registration of migrant workers.”

The said action has to be taken to ensure that migrant labour is adequately protected in terms of the Acts and benefits meant for them are passed to them

Court directed Union of India to file an affidavit in terms of the the kind of portal which is sought to be created, for the registration of migrant labour across the country. Such a portal ought to have on board all the state governments so that the ingress and egress of migrant labour is duly recorded and reported.

Matter to be listed on 22-07-2020. [Shashank S. Mangal v. GNCTD, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 677 , decided on 29-06-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ has directed all the States/Union Territories to take all necessary steps regarding identification of stranded migrant workers in their State which are willing to return to their native places and take steps for their return journey by train/bus which process may be completed within a period of 15 days.

The Court had, on 26.05.2020, taken up the issue suo motu based on, newspaper and media reports and several letters and representations it received from different sections of society highlighting the problem of migrant labourers. The Court had directed the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist the Court and by the next date of hearing bring in the notice of the Court all measures and steps taken by the Government of India and to be taken in this regard. After receiving the response from the Government, the Court had issued certain interim directions on May 28, 2020.

The Court, in it’s final order in the matter, noticed that lapses and short-comings in implementing the schemes and policies have been highlighted by various intervenors in their applications and affidavits.

“The responsibility of the States/Union Territories is not only to referring their policy, measures contemplated, funds allocated but there has to be strict vigilance and supervision as to whether those measures, schemes, benefits reaches to those to whom they are meant.”

The Court also took note of the fact that police officers of States, para-military forces wherever deployed are doing commendable job but some instances of excess with regard to migrant labourers are also there. The migrant labourers, who were forced to proceed to their native place, after cessation of their employment are already suffering.

“The Financial difficulty being with all the migrant labourers invariably they have to dealt by the police and other authorities in a humane manner. The concerned Director General of Police/Police Commissioner may issue necessary directions in this regard.”

The Court also appreciated the non-governmental organisations and individuals have also contributed and played an important role in extending helping hand to the migrants in this difficult time.

Taking all factors into consideration, the Court has also issued the following orders:

  • In event of any additional demand, in addition to demand of 171 Shramik trains, as noticed above, railway shall provide Shramik trains within a period of 24 hours as submitted by learned Solicitor General to facilitate the return journey of migrant workers.
  • The Central Government may give details of all schemes which can be availed by migrant workers who have returned to their native places.
  • All States and Union Territories shall also give details of all schemes which are current in the State, benefit of which can be taken by the migrant labourers including different schemes for providing employment.
  • The State shall establish counselling centres, help desk at block and district level to provide all necessary information regarding schemes of the Government and to extend helping hand to migrant labourers to identify avenues of employment and benefits which can be availed by them under the different schemes.
  • The details of all migrant labourers, who have reached their native places, shall be maintained with details of their skill, nature of employment, earlier place of employment. The list of migrant labourers shall be maintained village wise, block wise and district wise to facilitate the administration to extend benefit of different schemes which may be applicable to such migrant workers.
  • The counselling centres, established, as directed above, shall also provide necessary information by extending helping hand to those migrant workers who have returned to their native places and who want to return to their places of employment.
  • All concerned States/UTs to consider withdrawal of prosecution/complaints under Section 51 of Disaster Management Act and other related offences lodged against the migrant labourers who alleged to have violated measures of Lockdown by moving on roads during the period of Lockdown enforced under Disaster Management Act, 2005.

[In re : Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 492 , order dated 09.06.2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: Pratibha M. Singh, J., addressed a petition pertaining to seeking implementation of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979.

Actual Implementation of the said Act is the primary concern of the petition.

Government of NCT of Delhi, Counsel, Ramesh Singh submitted that the Registering Officers, Licensing Officers, Appellate Officers and Inspectors have been appointed.

Insofar as the Central Government, is concerned, Standing Counsel would also seek instructions and inform on the next date as to the actual status of the appointments of the Registering Officers, Licensing Officers, Appellate Officers and Inspectors.

Recent crisis which the country has witnessed with respect to migrant workmen shows that for the effective enforcement and implementation of the Act, there is an immediate need for proper data to be always available so as to ensure that steps can be taken in a timely and adequate manner, especially in times of a pandemic such as COVID-19 or in any other form of emergent situation.

Further it was observed that, collection of data ought to be vertically integrated so that data relating to migrant workmen, from the Central Government and the States is collected, cross-checked, maintained and is readily available, without any time-lag.

In Court’s opinion, in order to have a proper streamlined regulation of migrant workmen and their conditions of service,

the first and the foremost significant measure would be the collection of the actual data and the integration of the same between the Central and the State Governments.

Governments would have to consider as to whether there should be a centralized portal for registration of migrant workmen by the contractors who engage them or the employers who employ them.

Adding to the above, Court directed State and Centre to file their respective affidavits disclosing the data relating to migrant workers.

Respective Governments would also place on record the procedure currently being followed for contractors or employers to register migrant workers as also what are the procedures being followed for ensuring compliance. Accordingly, a status report be filed by both the Ministry of Labour, UOI and the GNCTD.

Matter to be listed on 29-06-2020. [Shashank S. Mangal v. Govt. (NCT of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine Del 621 , decided on 02-06-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Telangana High Court: A Division Bench of Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and B. Vijaysen Reddy, JJ., while addressing the various issues concerning the migrant workers set forth various directions in favour of the migrant workers.

Petitions taken into consideration are with regard to the migrant workers.

Petitioner’s Counsel submitted that most of the persons working in the brick kilns happen to be from outside the State of Telangana.

With the end of the brick manufacturing season, these workers from other States need to get back to their own native States. However, they are finding it difficult to travel from Telangana to their respective States. Thus, necessary arrangements need to be made for the said migrant workers.

Another petition was filed concerning the conditions of the migrant workers travelling throughout the State specially the ones who are stranded at Medchal in Rangareddy District.

On a bare perusal of the report with regard to the above-mentioned issue along with the concern pertaining to brick kiln workers, it was observed that migrant workers  are caught stranded at various Districts of the  State of Telangana.

Counsel for petitioner, Vasudha Nagaraj submitted that Deputy Commissioner, Labour should be directed to inspect brick kilns that are operating within their jurisdiction and find out the number of workers working and the report for the same should be submitted, and the same should be taken into account while identifying how many workers need to be transported.

Further she added that, endeavour should be made by the Government to ensure that the number of Shramik Trains are increased.

Another thing that is creating havoc amongst the migrant workers is that, despite the Supreme Court decision on free of cost travelling through Shramik Trains, the migrants are not being permitted to without any charge.

Adding to the above, she submitted that, Government should restart the plying of the RTC buses for transporting the migrant workers to the boarders of their respective States. A concerted effort should be made by the State Government with the neighbouring State Governments to ensure that when the migrant workers are left at the border, they are picked up by the respective State.

Court Commissioner, Pawan Kumar submitted that State Government should be directed to formulate a comprehensive policy with regard to the upkeep, the welfare and the transportation of the migrant workers.

He further informs this Court that since the migrant workers are not only illiterate, but are non-Telugu speaking people, the registration process evolved by the Government for their transportation on Shramik Trains/ Special Trains is too cumbersome for them. Therefore, a simpler form of registration process and data collection should be evolved by the Government.

High Court issued the following direction on perusal of the above:

  • Deputy Commissioners, Labour are directed to inspect the brick kilns functioning within their jurisdiction. They are directed to find out the number of workers still employed in the brick kilns, and the number of workers, who would like to return to their respective native States. Arrangements should also be made by the Deputy Commissioners for transportation.
  • It shall be the duty of the State Government to ensure that the brick kiln workers, and the migrant workers, housed in Secunderabad and any other area of the State, are comfortably looked after.
  • State Government should seriously consider the use of RTC buses to transport the migrant workers.
  • State Government should coordinate with the Railway Department, and should request the Railway Department to (i) increase the number of Shramik Trains not only for the neighbouring States, but also for destinations to other Indian States such as Jharkhand, Bihar, Utter Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan, (ii) in case the number of Shramik Trains cannot be increased, then to request the Railways Department to attach four bogies specially marked for the migrant workers.
  •  Those migrant workers brought to Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Rangareddy, shall be permitted to board the trains from Secunderabad Railway Stations, or to board buses.
  • State should also inform the neighbouring State, and should coordinate with the neighbouring States with regard to the movement of the migrant workers on the buses, and their arrival at the boarder check-posts.
  • State Government is directed to ensure that in the sheller homes housing the pregnant women, lactating mothers, children, and elderly persons, medical facilities are provided.
  • Considering the fact that the migrant workers are illiterate, considering the fact that most of them are from neighbouring States and are non-Telugu speaking people, Government is directed to evolve a simpler form of registration process.

State Government is directed to evolve a “comprehensive policy’ to deal with the migrant workers, both presently, as well as to deal with migrant workers even in future, considering the fact that a disaster can strike the State, or the Nation unannounced.

Advocate General is directed to submit a report about the steps taken by Government implementing the above laid down directions on 9th June, 2020. [S Jeevan Kumar v. State of Telangana, 2020 SCC OnLine TS 529 , decided on 02-06-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and K.K. Tated, J. asked the State Government to file report mentioning the whole procedure that a migrant worker is required to follow in order to be eligible for leaving the State of Maharashtra, likely time within which he could board a train/bus, the nature of shelter he is provided with during the waiting period as well as provisions made available to him for his sustenance.

The present Public Interest Litigation raised very apposite issue with regard to migrant workers who wanted to avail for Shramik Special trains and buses  being left in dark about the status of the their applications for the same.

Till the time migrants are updated about the status of their applications for boarding the trains/buses, they are made to live in cramped and unhygienic shelter without the provision of food and other essentials.

Additional Solicitor General, Anil Singh submitted that Supreme Court’s 28th May, 2020 Order has taken care of plight of migrant workers.

Bench stated that , at the present stage it is not empowered nor does it wishes to make any order contrary to the spirit of Supreme Court’s Order.

However, Court called upon the State to file a report by 2nd June, 2020 indicating therein how plight of migrant workers who have been assembling at the railway stations/bus stands in Mumbai and places around it, are being addressed. [Center of Indian Trade Unions v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 679 , decided on 29-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Abhay Shreeniwas Oka, CJ and B.V. Nagarathna, J. held that,

“though several orders have been passed by this Court from time-to-time, the State has not placed on record any transparent and fair policy for selecting persons out of those who registered on Seva Sindhu website.”

Bench addressed the present petition to deal with issue of migrant workers who had applied to be accommodated to the Shramik Special Trains to their origin State.

For the above, Court stated that,

“though several orders have been passed by this Court from time to time, as of today, the State has not placed on record any transparent and rational policy of selecting the persons out of those who have registered on Seva Sindhu website for being transported by a particular Shramik special train.”

Court by its 12th May, 2020 Order has directed the State Government to give assurance to the migrant workers registered on Seva Sindhu Website that the State will make all arrangements to transport them to their respective States.

Object was to ensure that there is no unrest and none of them should even attempt to walk upto their respective States, but even as of 28th May, 2020 none of that assurance was communicated.

Further the Court observed that,

State Government being fully aware, that all the migrant workers who intended to go back to their respective States had registered themselves on Seva Sindhu website long back, instead of sending messages on their cell phones assuring that the State Government will make all possible efforts to send them back, messages were sent to more than 8,33,667 applicants calling for their confirmation. The confirmation was called for in a most complicated manner by calling upon them to type ‘YES’ followed by the last six digits of their registration number.

Most of the migrant workers may not be in a position to give reply as aforesaid even assuming that their cell phones are working.

For the above-stated action of sending messages for confirmation, State Government defended its move by pointing out that two shramik trains for Uttar Pradesh prior to 26th May, 2020 had some vacant seats.

Court stated that it is prima facie apparent that some seats in the Shramik trains were vacant as the State couldn’t inform all those who intended to travel to Uttar Pradesh to use the facility.

Prima Facie, Court’s opinion was that the said exercise undertaken by the State appears to be an exercise undertaken to exclude large number of persons who had already registered themselves to go back to their respective States.

State cannot come out with an excuse that it is not possible to communicate such assurance as they have undertaken the exercise of sending SMS to all registered mobile numbers of the applicants registered on Seva Sindhu website.

Additional Advocate General stated that the State Government has no intention of excluding anyone who is registered on Seva Sindhu website and the State will take immediate steps to communicate an assurance to all those who have registered and will make all possible arrangements to enable their transport back to their respective States.

“…there is complete absence of a transparent and fair policy to choose persons out of registered applicants.”

Further with regard to grievance of delay on part of Railways in providing food, explanation was given that there was a delay in the trains reaching the railway stations where arrangements were made to serve food as the trains were stranded due to various reasons. 

From the submissions it was also stated that food for first few hours of journey by Shramik trains will be provided by the State Government and further meals will be provided by the Railways.

Counsel for Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewage Boards stated that wages to all migrant workers who had left the work have also been fully paid.

An assurance is also provided that, State Government will take action for violation of provisions of Payment of Wages Act, 1936 and Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

Lastly, the Court concluded its decision by stating that in terms of the above stated assurance, action will be initiated by State Government against employers/contractors concerned which would ensure that workers get their unpaid wages.[Mohammed Arif Jameel v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 539 , decided on 28-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Telangana High Court: A Division Bench of Raghvendra Singh Chauhan, CJ and B. Vijaysen Reddy, J. directed the State to ensure that ambulances are available on National and State Highways as migrant workers, including pregnant women are using the same to reach destinations.

Concern as placed in the petition for which relief is sought is with regard to the failure of State Government to protect and safe guard meaningful access to essential health services to pregnant women and for neonatal care during COVID-19 lockdown.

Following were the direction sought by the petitioner:

  1. to ensure that in every COVID-19 hotspot or Red Zone, a Nodal Officer is appointed whose contact number(s) is publicly made available for accessing non COVID-19 related health services, including reproductive health and ensure provision of ambulances which are not ferrying COVID-19 patient
  2.  to institute dedicated help lines for women seeking non COVID19 essential health services during the lockdown and make the numbers publicly available
  3. to ensure that pregnant women requiring medical. facilities are taken safely and at the earliest to the nearest non COVID-19 designated hospitals “‘
  4. to ensure that private vehicles carrying pregnant women are allowed to move freely without insisting on a Movement Pass.
  5. to place a cap on the price/fees charged for medical services rendered by private hospitals/health facilities, relating to childbirth, maternity, neonatal care and abortion services during COVID-19 restrictions / lockdown
  6. to provide sufficient compensation to the victim’s family from the victim welfare fund.

Another petition was filed wherein direction was sought for respondents to ensure that pregnant women are given urgent care in Government Hospitals in the State of Telangana and not make them run for nearly 200 km, as happened in a heart- wrenching incident occurred in Gadwal (a 20 year old pregnant women, Jenila, from Yapadine village of Ieeja Mandal, Jogulamba Gadwal District) due to bureaucratic interpretation of Guidelines that has tragically led to the death of both the pregnant woman and her just delivered infant and to issue clear instructions to all hospitals to treat patients on the basis of medical emergencies and to not stick to bureaucratic norms that would endanger the lives of the patients as there is every possibility of such tragic incidents recurring in the State of Telangana. 

Decision

It has been noted by the Court that departmental proceedings have been initiated against the doctors who were found to be negligent in the above-mentioned case of Janila. Though Court would want to whether any criminal action has been initiated against the negligent doctors/hospital.

Court suggests respondents to ensure that ambulances are available on National and State Highways as migrant workers, including pregnant women are using the same to reach destinations.

Thus, Advocate General is directed to inform the Court on the aspect of availability of Ambulances on National and State Highways.

Matter listed on 10th June, 2020. [Sreenitha Pujari v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine TS 497 , decided on 27-05-2020]

COVID 19Op EdsOP. ED.

Unprecedented health crisis has reinvigorated the terminology ‘migrant workers’. They are not only getting the attention, rightly so, of the media for the sufferings but also experiencing the newly found affection from their home States. The home States are promising all-out support to these workers, including employment. What is the origin of the word ‘migrant workers’? Does the Constitution or the constitutional scheme categorise the workers into ‘non-migrant and migrant workers’? If not, then the word ‘migrant worker’ betrays the constitutional guarantees of the right to freedom to movement, reside and to carry on trade, business and occupation to every citizen in any part of the country. Also, the nomenclature implicitly creates territorial barriers for the workers to earn livelihoods which otherwise a factor counted in during electoral processes only. This work takes us through the intent of the makers of the Constitution while crafting the right to freedom. Were they intended to create a region-based identity of the workers while contributing to the economic growth of the migrated States, in particular and the country in general? These rights to freedom constitutes bulwark of the constitutional assurance to the workers to travel in any part of the country with an aim to improve upon the quality of life and be part of a liberated country.

Notably, the usage of ‘migrant workers’ has been in vogue in the international sphere as ‘the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families’ since 1990. The Convention accepts the reality of the migration of workers from one sovereign State to another for varied reasons. Aptly, the Convention draws a distinction between ‘the State of origin’ and ‘the State of employment’ based upon the country from where migration is taking place and the employment being generated for the workers. The Convention defines migrant workers as ‘a person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national.’ It rules out any non-remunerative engagement of the workers and they shall not be subjected to discrimination based on the sex, race, colour, language, religion or conviction, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, nationality, age, economic position, property, marital status, birth or other status. Intriguingly, the vocabulary used in the international relations has become popular in the national context. In the national context, the classification has institutionalised the discrimination not only on the basis of the region but also the nature of employment. It is pertinent to highlight that the Convention guarantees equality of treatment in the State of employment whereas the same is apparently denied in the case of ‘migrant workers’ within India.  Also, in 1979, the Central Government has enacted ‘the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act[1] aimed at preventing the exploitative tendency of the contractors to employ people from one State to carry out the work in another State. Though, the present work refrains from detailing out the scheme of the Act, it is apropos to mention that the legal protection was accorded to the uneducated workforce from the unscrupulous contractors who deny the living wage and livable working conditions to the workers arranged by them. The legal instrument regulates the conduct of the contractor and does not lay down the norms on the responsibility of the States in the pandemic situation. Thus, it is desirable to unfold the leaves of the constitutional structure to comprehend the positioning of the ‘migrant workers’ and the obligations of the States thereof. 

What is ‘migrant’ in the exercise of the right to freedom?

The combined reading of the rights to freedom under Articles 19(1)(d)(e) and (g) are not only the affirmation of the charter of liberties but also edifice to build a new nation of indestructible units and undivided citizenry. These rights also facilitate citizen driven socio-cultural integration of the country. When the citizens decide to relocate themselves in the urge of better living, they also carry their tradition which contributes in building a culture of tolerance, an idea of India. Additionally, these rights play a significant role in the creation of ‘single market’ with an aim to free movement of goods, services and labour.

The prefix ‘migrant’ to the word ‘worker’ signifies the adhocism in the enjoyment of the right guaranteed under Articles 19(1)(d)(e) and (g). It appears that ‘migrant’ adds another ground of the restriction, other than Clauses (5) and (6), to the exercise of the right assured to every citizen in a situation where the decision to stay or to leave the migrated State is not voluntarily taken by the citizens.  Are we assuming that the workers who migrate to different parts of the country give qualified consent to the enjoyment of the right? Let us travel through the history of the contextualisation of the rights and the restrictions to understand the contours of the freedom guaranteed.

Surprisingly, ‘the home States’ were being used for the Princely States which had sovereign rights subject to the limitations imposed by the paramount power. These States were empowered to erect tariff barriers in the interest of the region and the people. While rejecting the idea of tariff barriers in independent India, Dr. Ambedkar observed that “the reason of carving out a separate fundamental right to freedom of trade was to guarantee the free flow of trade to everyone within the State as well as across the States. But in view of a number of considerations, including the need to regulate trade and commerce.”

While navigating in the history, the apprehensions were raised regarding giving effect to some of the rights guaranteed under Article 19. K. Hanumanthaiya presenting his views on the rights to settle, to acquire property and to carry on trade indicated that they might act in a partisan manner to safeguard the rights and interests of the people within their respective areas.  Though, the apprehension raised was addressed with elucidation on the requirement of the ‘reasonableness’ of the restrictions imposed against the enjoyment of these freedoms. Members of the Assembly were of the opinion that the leaders of the country would never run after the draconian powers to rule the people.  T.T. Krishnamacahri, while articulating on the scope of the liberty guaranteed under Article 13 of the Draft Constitution (now Article 19) said that ‘It only depends upon the type of leaders that we get for the abridgment of these rights which are enumerated here to become a dead letter, and that is in the lap of the gods. For the time being we have done the very best possible which human ingenuity can devise.’[2]

Nevertheless, no civilised country would take a risk of guaranteeing absolute rights. Thus, score of restrictions are devised to limit the scope of the rights to freedom. One of the common grounds to restrict the exercise of the right to freedom is ‘in the interest of general public’. T.T. Krishnamachari, dispelling the fear of highhandedness of the State in restricting the rights, said that

‘Sir, the future, what it is going to be, none of us really know, but we almost of us–envisage that the future will be one which will be bright, the future will be one where the State is going to be progressive, where the State is going to interfere more and more in the economic life of the people not for the purpose of abridgment of rights of individuals, but for the purpose of bettering the lot of individuals. That is the State that I envisage, a State which will not be inactive, but will be active and interfere for the purpose of bettering the lot of the individual in this country; and I do feel, Sir, that as it is a well-known canon that in any Constitution that is forged there should be a reconciliation of past political thought which will at once pave the way for a new level of thinking, a new level of progressive and critical thinking.’

The deafening silence of the Governments on the plight of the workers goes contrary to the belief of the makers of the Constitution. Moreover, the States are running away from the responsibility of standing with the working class at the time of unprecedented crisis by branding them ‘migrant’ so that these workers would look for the necessary help from their respective home States.

Need to de-tag ‘migrant’ from the workforce?

The Directive Principles of State Policy aim to create social and economic conditions under which the citizens can lead a good life. The legislature and the executive are directed to design the legislations and policies for attaining the socio-economic democracy.  These principles also serve as a guiding tool to unveil the scope of the fundamental rights. In Chandra Bhavan Boarding and Lodging, Bangalore v. State of Mysore[3] , the Supreme Court has validated the law on minimum wages invoking the provision on ‘living wage’ under the directives and justified the limitations on the right to carry on trade under Article 19(1)(g). The Directives are being petitioned to unveil the scope and ambit of the Fundamental Rights. Mere glance of the provision on the ‘workers’ clearly spells out the absence of domicile as criteria to enjoy the basic fundamental rights.

A set of provisions on welfare of the workers is included in the Directive Principles. ‘Workers’ are used in three directives. Article 39(e) binds the State to formulate the non-abusive policy on health and strength of women and men workers. Article 43 provides for legislative measures for guaranteeing living wages to all the workers, industrial or agriculture. A directive added in 1976, Article 43-A, suggests for the participation of workers in the management of any industry. These directives have not made any distinction between the workers of the migrated States from the migrant States. It is pertinent to mention that what these provisions promise cannot have a conditional scheme of implementation, least on the basis of the regional affiliation/domicile of the workers. Reading of these directives with the right to social security enshrined under Article 41, it opens up a new charter of life to the exploited and underprivileged with the commitment to attain not only socio-economic democracy but also economic democracy. The scheme of Part IV does not suggest the entitlement based upon the place of domicile of the workers.

Concluding remarks

Labeling of the ‘worker’ as migrant amounts to devalue the contribution in nation building and promotes the fragmentation of the working class in the country. Interestingly, the division has untouched the white collar jobs and the workers engaged in such employment get accommodated without any reservations. 

It is also a matter of fact that the workers are returning to their home States in the hope that the political dispensation will do the needful at this time of distress. Because, they are seen as a pawn in the larger electoral politics. It is this identity that compels them to return home, after undergoing unprecedented hardships, so that they again get counted in as a human being when the election would be approaching. Needless to say, the abject poverty and lack of employment opportunity drives them away from home and they swallow the bitter pill of being called a ‘migrant’. In the instant situation, a narrative needs to be built that the terminology of ‘migrant workers’ is abhorrent to the constitutional philosophy of ‘fraternity’, ‘liberty’ and ‘single market’. The State must enable the people to use the rights so that the citizens can feel the pride of the sacrifices made in the past.


*Associate Professor, Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. Author can be reached at uday@iitkgp.ac.in (Views are personal).

[1] Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979

[2] Constituent Assembly Debates, Vol. 7, Thursday,  2nd December, 1948  

[3] (1969) 3 SCC 84 

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Govind Mathur, CJ Ramesh Sinha, J. while issuing notice to the State of Uttar Pradesh called upon the State to provide the rehabilitation scheme for migrant workers, policy and norms for providing medical facilities to them and complete layout to reduce migration of the natives of Uttar Pradesh to other parts of the country.

Advocates for the petitioner, Gaurav Tripathi and Ritesh Srivastava by the instant petition have agitated the cause of “Migrant Labourers” who in their opinion are travelling on foot from their working place to hometown.

Neither the Central nor the State Governments, where the labourers were working made adequate arrangements for their movement and their families.

It is also reported that even at Railway Stations no food is available, hence, the people travelling in the trains known as “Shramik Special” are facing starvation.

They asserted that there is no term like “Migrant Labourer” or “Migrant Workmen”. Statute prescribes only the labourer or workmen hence, it was States responsibility where the workmen were working to provide necessities during the lockdown.

Present circumstances, as per the petitioners, is nothing but to put lakhs of workmen in a condition close to death without any fault on their part.

Petitioners stated that due to non- availability of basic infrastructure for employment in the State of Uttar Pradesh, lakhs of people use to migrate to the other States to earn their livelihood.

Present attitude of the State Governments where these people were working is contrary to the spirit of union and federal structure, therefore, it is more necessary for the State of Uttar Pradesh to strengthen its edifice for local employment.

Bench

Court with regard to the issue of transportation and providing food for so called ‘Migrant Labourers’ stated that Supreme Court taking suo moto cognizance on the said issue had already dealt with the same.

Further, Court deemed it appropriate to call upon the State to explain on the policy and norms for providing medical facilities and treatment to migrant workmen and their families alongwith the scheme for rehabilitation of migrant workmen and their families in the State of Uttar Pradesh.

State also directed to give a complete layout to reduce migration of the natives of Uttar Pradesh to other parts of the country to earn minimum livelihood.

Thus in view of the above Court issued notice to State of U.P. [Ritesh Srivastava v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 633 , decided on 26-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Abhay Shreeniwas Oka, CJ and B.V. Nagarathna, J. while deciding with regard to the issue of train fare of migrant workers held that,

“…because of the reluctance of the State Government to bear the train fare of the migrant workers who are not in a position to pay will be continued to stay in the State and look upon to the State Government for providing food and other necessities.”

State Government stated that it is not in a position to pay train fare in respect of the migrant workers who wish to travel to their respective States by Shramik special trains.

Further, it was submitted that, so long as the migrants are living in the State and the present crisis continues, the State will continue to take care of the interests of the migrants and every effort will be made to ensure that they find vocation within the State. If the migrants wish to leave the State, the Government will not impose any restriction for such travel.

There has to be a clarity on the question of the extent of fare charged by the Railways for Shramik special trains.

Bench noted that, none of the submissions of State mentioned with regard to the issue of bearing train fare payable by migrants.

We are not made aware whether any such conscious decision has been taken that the State will not pay the train fare payable to enable those migrant workers to travel by Shramik special trains who are not in a position to pay the train fare.

Further, the Court added to its conclusion that, because of the reluctance of the State Government to bear the train fare of the migrant workers who are not in a position to pay, apart from the allegation that it will violate the fundamental rights of the migrant workers, they will be forced to continue to stay in the State.

They will have to look upon to the State Government for providing food and other necessities.

Migrant workers who are staying in the State by leaving their families in the States of their origin are in precarious position because they are unable to send money for the maintenance of their respective families. These are all human issues which need to be addressed by the State Government as well as the Central Government, considering the concept of Welfare State.

Court directed :

  • the Chief Secretary of the State Government as well as the Secretary of the Labour Department of the State Government to remain present for video conferencing hearing on Tuesday, 26th May, 2020.
  • Additional Solicitor General of India to take instruction from the Central Government and Railways on the question of waiver of train fare for the migrants who have been stranded in the State and who are not in a position to pay.
  • State Government must also make it clear how long it will take care of such migrant workers and their families.
  •  Additional Solicitor General will take instructions whether the State can be permitted to use the funds transferred by the National Disaster Response Fund for payment of train fare of the migrants who are not in a position to pay any amount.

Petition to be listed on 26th May, 2020. [Mohammad Arif Jameel v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 537 , decided on 21-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Anil Kumar and Saurabh Lavania, JJ., addressed a Public Interest Litigation and sought the essential necessities and facilities being provided to the migrant workers.

Present PIL was filed to seek direction with regard to safeguarding the rights of migrant workers stranded Uttar Pradesh and in view of that their essential necessities to be fulfilled. The one’s who are moving on road shouldn’t be left starving.

State Counsel, H.P. Srivastava and S.B. Pandey, Assistant Solicitor General of India ensured the Court that the Guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs and Supreme Court will be fully carried out by the State of Uttar Pradesh.

Bench in view of the above directed the respondents to file a status report for the above indicating what facilities have been provided to workers/labourers who are keen to reach back their native place in State of U.P.,some of which are on the way as also to the stranded workers/labourers in the State of U.P. [Dileep Kumar Mishra v. U.O.I, 2020 SCC OnLine All 617 , decided on 21-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of M. Sathyanarayanan and Dr Anita Sumanth, JJ. asked for a comprehensive report to be submitted since the accommodation and transportation of the migrant workers stranded in the State of Tamil Nadu is looming at large.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in the form of various administrative instructions have been issued with relating to migrant workers/Labourers.

It has been submitted that, some of the migrant workers do not have authenticated cards on the form of Aadhar Cards, etc. and NGOs are trying their level best to coordinate with Governmental Agencies for registration and transportation but still there are some problems thus the same needs to be addressed and emergent directions needs to be passed.

Government Pleader, V. Jayaprakash Narayan submitted that comprehensive guidelines have been placed based upon MHA Order wherein the following was stated:

Inter-State movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons stranded at different places due to lockdown and said Order mandated State Governments to designate Nodal officers to have coordination with respective State/UTs Governments to ensure orderly receiving and sending of stranded people between State of Tamil Nadu and other State/UTs as per SOPs issues.

Court while hearing the arguments placed a specific query with regard to identification of shelter homes/places wherein migrant workers were waiting for transportation to their Home States could be accommodated .

Court also took judicial notice of the fact that in arterial roads, migrant workers were exhibiting their anxiety to reach Railway Station and were not maintaining the social/physical distancing and do not possess sufficient protective masks and thus State’s immediate concern should be to accommodate them i shelter homes.

Assistant Solicitor General of India, G. Rajagopalan submitted that Ministry of Railways operated number of ‘Shramik’ Special Trains to transport migrant workers and though some of the States are not permitting the entry of migrant workers, State Government concerned needs to coordinate with the State Governments.

Court asked for a comprehensive Status Report to be filed with regard keeping in view the accommodation and transportation of migrant workers stranded in State of Tamil Nadu and the effective measures/workable solutions in terms of SOPs formulated.

The NGOs shall also coordinated with the migrant workers as their orderly behaviour and render necessary help to board trains. [S. Thilakraj v. Union of India, WP  No.7702 of 2020, decided on 19-05-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

In a communication to the States, Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has noted that fear of COVID-19 infection and apprehension of loss of livelihood are the main driving factors for the movement of stranded workers towards their homes.

In order to mitigate the distress of migrant workers, the communication stresses on a number of measures that may be taken by the State governments, pro-actively in coordination with the Centre. These are:

  • Operation of more special trains by pro-active coordination between States and with Ministry of Railways;
  • Increase in number of buses for transporting migrants; allowing entry of buses carrying migrants at inter-state border;
  • More clarity may be given about departure of trains/ buses, as lack of clarity coupled with rumours caused unrest amongst the workers;
  • Arrangement of designated rest places, with adequate facilities for sanitation, food and healthcare, could be made by the States on routes where migrants are known to be already travelling on foot;
  • District Authorities may guide workers moving on foot to designated rest places, nearby bus terminals or railway stations by arranging transportation;
  • Special attention may be given to the specific requirements of women, children and elderly amongst the migrant workers;
  • District Authorities may involve NGO representatives at rest places etc, to alleviate the notion of long quarantine at rest places. Workers may also be encouraged to remain at places where they are;
  • Enlisting the migrants with their addresses and contact numbers. This may be helpful in contact tracing in due course.

The communication reiterates that District Authorities must ensure that no migrant worker has to resort to walking on roads or railway tracks to reach his/her destination. They may request Ministry of Railways for running trains, as per requirement.

Click here to see Official Communication to States


Ministry of Home Affairs

[Press Release dt. 19-05-2020]

[Source: PIB]