New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a plea to transport migrant workers stranded in various states due to the nationwide lockdown in force to contain the outbreak of coronavirus. These migrants have been moving back to their native places either walking or cycling, and in some cases hitchhiking — there condition have been most vulnerable.
In their observation, a bench comprising Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B.R. Gavai said: “How can the court stop anybody when they choose to sleep on railway tracks. There are people walking and not stopping. How can we help?”
The observation from the top court came on a plea filed by lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava pointing out the loss of migrant lives in accidents — on train tracks and roads — as many chose to walk to their native towns in the absence of any public transport.
The top court noted that every advocate read incidents in the newspaper and become knowledgeable about every subject. The bench told the petitioners that his knowledge is completely based on newspaper clippings and then under Article 32, he wants the court to decide on this matter.
“How can you expect us to pass orders? Let the states take action,” said the bench.
The petitioners insisted the top court to issue directions to the district magistrates on the matter. “Sorry, we are not inclined,” said the bench.
Justice Rao noted that it is impossible for the top court to monitor the movement of people: “Who is walking and who is not walking.”
The bench asked the petitioner to implement the government directives. “We will give you a special pass and you can go and check,” the bench told the petitioner.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said the government has already started helping the migrant workers, but some are not waiting for their turn, instead start walking back home.
“Everybody would get to reach their destination. They must wait for their turn rather than starting on foot,” contended Mehta before the bench. Mehta informed the court that subject to agreement between the states everybody will get a chance to travel. “Using force can be counterproductive,” submitted Mehta.
The petitioner had cited the May 8 incident, where 16 migrant labourers were crushed to death by a goods train in Maharashtra after they fell asleep on the tracks. According to railway authorities, after losing their jobs, due to Covid-19, the workers were walking towards their home state Madhya Pradesh when the accident struck.