SC to Centre: Send migrant workers home within 15-day deadline

The Supreme Court on Friday told the Centre to send all migrants home within the deadline fixed, and to ensure the compliance of the court’s order. On June 9, the top court had ordered that the process of transporting migrant workers to their native places should be completed in 15 days.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, while hearing the suo motu case on the migrant crisis during Covid-19 pandemic, said the court’s order on June 9, was very clear that all migrants must reach home within 15 days.

The bench told the Centre to ensure that migrants do not have to pay anything to go back. Senior advocate Indira Jaising contended before the bench the information sought from migrant workers was unnecessarily excessive, and informed the bench that it was earlier not being followed.

The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to speak with all states and Union Territories to comply with the order. “Also ensure publicity is given to our orders”, they told the Centre. The bench has fixed the next hearing on the matter in July.

Justice Shah cited an order by Karnataka High Court, where it observed that the 15-day period was not mandatory. Justice Shah said the High Court should be informed that the top court’s order is mandatory.

Mehta submitted that states have been asked to submit their requisition for trains to transport the migrants. After this is done, within 24 hours trains are being provided, added Mehta.

On June 9, the apex court passed a slew of directions to state governments and Union Territories to provide benefits for migrant workers, who returned to their native states and directed the governments to submit schemes to generate employment for the migrants, and also to withdraw cases against them for violating lockdown orders.

The bench added that employment generation should be explored by the home state of the migrant workers, besides facilitating their journey to their native places, if they are interested. The top court also ordered withdrawal of complaints against migrant workers who set off on foot. The bench said that all cases registered against migrants who allegedly violated lockdown orders, under the Disaster Management Act 2005, should be dropped.