Can’t stop or monitor movement of migrant workers on roads, says SC

New Delhi, May 15

The Supreme Court Friday said it is impossible for courts to monitor or stop the movement of migrant workers across the country and it is for the government to take necessary action in this regard.

The Centre told the top court that migrant workers across the country were being provided transportation by the government to their destinations but they have to wait for their turn, rather than starting walking on foot amid coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.

A Bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao refused to entertain an application seeking a direction to the Centre to ask all District Magistrates to identify stranded migrant workers and provide shelter, food to them before ensuring their free transportation to native places in view of the recent incident at Aurangabad in which 16 workers were mowed down by a goods train.

The Bench, which also comprised Justices S K Kaul and B R Gavai, asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta whether there was any way to stop these migrants workers from walking on the roads.

Mehta said states are providing inter-state transport to the migrant workers but if the people start walking on foot instead of waiting for transportation, then nothing can be done.

He said authorities can only request these people not to start walking on foot as using any force to stop them would be counter-productive.

Mehta told the Bench, which was hearing the matter through video-conferencing, that subject to the agreement between state governments everybody would get a chance to travel to their destinations.

Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, who had filed the plea, referred to recent  incidents of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh where migrant workers were killed in accidents on highways.

“How can we stop it?,” the Bench observed, adding that states should take necessary action on these issues.

The Bench, which said it was not inclined to hear the plea, observed that it is impossible for the court to monitor who is walking and who is not walking.

Srivastava had filed the plea soon after the Aurangabad incident in which 16 migrant workers, who were returning to Madhya Pradesh and had slept on railway tracks, were mowed down by a goods train.

The interim application, filed in a disposed PIL, had said that the deceased labourers belonged to Shahdol and Umaria Districts of Madhya Pradesh and were walking from Jalna in Maharashtra to Aurangabad Railway Station to board trains to reach hometowns. 

After walking for several kilometers, they decided to take rest on the railway tracks between Satana and Karmad and were mowed down by a goods train, it had said.  Earlier, the top court had disposed of the PIL seeking migrant workers’ welfare during the pandemic and consequential lockdown saying that the Centre and states are taking appropriate steps to provide them relief. 

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