Supreme Court’s Silence on Migrant Exodus

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This Article is written by Nidhi Singh, 3rd year student from Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida.

 Supreme court is supposed to be a checker of our government as it looks over the policies and steps taken by the government. But nowadays in this pandemic crisis due to Covid-19, Supreme Court’s silence on migrant workers exodus is somehow questionable, ‘The migrant workers’ issues are not a ‘policy issue’. They raise constitutional issues, Apex Court has the power under Article 142 to undertake any measure to do complete justice. 

 The show of helplessness does not do justice to the court’s motto of ‘Yato dharmastato Jaya’, It was quite obvious that the short notice of just four hours for the lockdown to take effect, the lack of planning and coordination with the States, the fears of the people about being left without cash and running out of food, and worries about their families back home were the principal reasons. 

 The dignity of hundreds and millions of citizens has completely been taken away. They are virtually left naked in every city, every village, and every highway of this country. And yet, the Supreme Court simply said how can we stop them from walking? [1]

                                                                      -Dushyant Dave, President, Supreme Court Bar Association

 It is the responsibility of our government to provide food, shelter (free from Rent), and transport free of cost so that they reach their destination without caring much about money. But as we all know our present govt. somehow failed and Judiciary left workers to get up on their own.

Supreme court has the authority to question the government regarding this suffering of workers, if the apex court remains silent on this issue, then we all should doubt the word ‘Federalism’ and ‘Independent Judiciary’.

Supreme Court’s Response

However, the Supreme court broke its silence but in a negative manner, the top court[2] on May 15 where it said that it was impossible for the courts to monitor or stop migrants from walking home and that it was the state governments responsibility to take necessary action.

 The court had even gone to the extent of saying that the migrants’ exodus was due to panic created by fake news.[3] SC has uncritically stated that “fake news[4]” about the duration of the lockdown being “3 months” caused a panic reaction from migrant workers across Nation. In the light of this finding — if it can be described thus — the Court has chosen to “direct the media to refer to and publish the official version about the developments”, with a disclaimer that it does not intend to interfere with the free discussion about the pandemic. 

Senior Advocates Letter[5] to SCSupreme Court received a letter from senior advocates ( P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Prashant Bhushan, Indira Jaising, Vikas Singh, Iqbal Chawla, Navroz Seervai) of Delhi and Mumbai regarding the ‘Humanitarian crises’ created by the lockdown. They also criticized SC for its silence on workers’ situation and suffering.

 The letter said – “The Supreme Court’s failure to protect the rights of the helpless millions of migrant workers in March and its failure to Scrutinise carefully the executive actions resulted in them being compelled to stay in cramped unhygienic accommodation without employment and wages and often without proper food and with a much higher risk of Covid-19 infection”

Conclusion

 In this lockdown, Migrant workers are the ones who affected at the worst level. If the government would have provided them shelter without rent or announced lockdown with prior at least two days’ notice to all, the situation could be different as of now. 

But now the situation is very fatal, and migrant workers are traveling with hunger and sweat by their bare feet on roads. Our executives are failed, and the judiciary also left these workers on their own. So, we as a citizen of this nation should ask ourselves – “if govt. is not taking steps for workers and judiciary is not questioning the govt., How can we say that there is a “balance of power” and “Independent Judiciary” in India? 

After years, our history will be written that our executives and judiciary failed the nation and somehow failed the Indian Constitution.

[1]  Arpan chaturvedi, bloomberg quint (May 23, 2020, 5:03 PM)  https://www.bloombergquint.com/law-and-policy/migrant-crisis-apex-court-failed-the-citizens-says-supreme-court-bar-association-president-dushyant-dave

[2] Read more at: https://www.bloombergquint.com/law-and-policy/migrant-crisis-apex-court-failed-the-citizens-says-supreme-court-bar-association-president-dushyant-dave

[3] The Hindu Editorial, (2 April, 2020, 12:02 AM) Read here- https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/uncritical-endorsement-the-hindu-editorial-on-exodus-of-migrant-workers-and-the-supreme-court/article31230325.ece

[4] Dhananjay Mahapatra and Amit Anand Chaudhary , The Times of India (March 31, 2020, 10:22 PM) Read more- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/we-cant-overlook-that-fake-news-triggered-exodus-of-migrant-workers-sc/articleshow/74918851.cms

[5] Krishnadas Rajagopal, the hindu (May 27,2020, 1:43 PM )  https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/hours-before-taking-up-migrant-workers-issue-supreme-court-got-stinging-letter-from-senior-lawyers/article31685187.ece

 

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