Coronavirus lockdown | Migrant workers should not be prosecuted, says Supreme Court
Context: The court passed the order on migrant workers after suo motu taking cognisance of the migrant workers’ exodus.
Power of High Courts to take up such matters:
High Courts, as constitutional courts, were well within their jurisdiction to take cognisance of violation of fundamental rights of migrant workers and we have no doubt that those proceedings shall proceed.
What has the Court said?
Migrant workers should not be prosecuted for trying to reach home amid the national lockdown.
States/Union Territories should withdraw all complaints under Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act and other related offences lodged against migrant labourers who are alleged to have violated lockdown measures by moving on roads.
Railways should provide the States with 171 more Shramik Special trains within the next 24 hours to transport migrant workers.
What’s the issue?
Society as a whole is moved by the miseries and difficulties being faced by migrant workers.
They had set out on foot from big cities for their native villages to escape starvation, unemployment and disease during the pandemic.
But, they are often stopped by the police at various check posts and prevented from entering into their states or villages. This has left them shelterless and made more vulnerable.
A migrant worker who walked home would have faced a year in prison or been fined or suffered both if found guilty of obstructing the law under Section 51 of the Act.
Migrant labourers are forced to proceed to their native place after cessation of their employment. They are already suffering. They have to dealt by the police and other authorities in a humane manner.
So, once they are brought back to their homes, the states need to attend the needs of the migrant labourers. These include source of employment, provision of food and ration for them.
Counselling centres should be set up to reach out to them and explain the various schemes framed for their rehabilitation and employment. The centres should freely provide information and even “extend helping hand” to those workers who want to return to their places of past employment.
Sources: the Hindu.