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Migrants, Judiciary & Suo Moto: Justice delayed, overlooked and Ignored.

Moshe lead the exodus of israelites out of the Egypt and across the red sea to liberation but in the current Indian scenario leading to the mass exodus of the migrants, who’s the Moshe?.Is it The Government?, the State Governments? or the Judiciary?. May be this exodus possess no Moshe. Migrants dying on roads, inside trains, on the platforms, may be this lockdown has arrived as a much bigger problem for them as the pandemic itself. Migrants still walking hundreds of kilometre in a quest to return home exposed the serious lacunas in policy making and management. No food, no water, blazing sun, thousands of kilometres to go, the lockdown has pushed the migrant workers in dire straits.  

The executive is facing the brunt from all sections of the society for its mismanagement and poor policy making. Newspaper reports has persuaded several High Courts of the country to take note of the humanitarian crisis that the migrants is facing but only after several migrants had already been subjected to suffering.

The Orissa High Court took suo motu cognisance of the matter and ordered the state government to arrange food, shelter and medical facilities for the migrants. In the first week of this month, the Karnataka High Court has asked the government to inform the court regarding the arrangement of special trains for the migrants.

“…it cannot be disputed that many such migrants have lost their lives because of the accidents on the roads and on railway tracks. In some cases, as a result of undertaking a long walk and hunger, migrants have lost their lives,”          – Karnataka HC

The Gujrat High Court also took suo motu cognisance of the crisis and ordered the state government to device “concrete plans” for the migrant workers. The Gujrat High Court also remarked it to be “very disturbing, painful and heartbreaking” and said that the poor are “not afraid” of Covid-19, but “are afraid that they would die due to starvation”.

“If at this stage, this Court does not react and pass these orders, this Court would be falling in its role as a protector and alleviator of suffering. Their pain has to be alleviated at this stage… They deserve more help particularly when they are trekking back with their heads high instead of living at someone’s mercy,” – Andhra Pradesh High Court

‘One cannot control his tears’ remarked the Madras High Court, on the pathetic conditions that the migrant workers is facing.

However, the apex court earlier dismissed an application seeking directions to all district magistrates across India to identify walking labourers and to ensure that they reach their native places, free of cost, it was just following severe criticism from society and some ex-judges and senior advocates that the Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of this humanitarian crisis and ordered Centre and States to immediately provide transport, food and shelter free of cost to stranded migrant workers.

But why it took so long for the Justice to arrive?

The Solicitor General of India is one of the protagonist of this whole saga. On March 31, the Solicitor General told the Supreme Court that “The home secretary is saying that as of 11 am this morning, nobody is on the road”, a claim that later on was refuted through several media channel reporting migrants still walking on the roads.

In a recent hearing at the Supreme Court, the Solicitor General standing on behalf of the Union Government, questioned those High Courts which are actually providing relief to the migrant workers accusing those High Courts of “running parallel governments”.

He also said “We have a handful of people in this country called prophets of doom who always spread negativity, negativity, and negativity. All these people writing on social media, giving interviews, cannot even acknowledge what is being done. None of these prophets of doom have shown any courtesy to the nation. They don’t even have the patriotism to acknowledge that.”

It is a matter of fact that “calling a spade a spade” cannot be equated with “spreading negativity”. It was just because of the condemnation by many lawyers particularly Sr Advocate Mr Dushyant Dave that the Supreme Court was contrived to take cognisance of the migrant workers issue.

“If the judges had seen their grandchild walking on the road, and suddenly see a car rushing from the other side, would the judges have not tried to save the child? Every citizen of India is a grandchild of the Supreme Court of India,” – Sr Adv Dushyant Dave

Calling journalists who report the misery of poor as “vultures” was another irresponsible statement on the part of the SG. In reality, several journalists despite suffering pay cuts has contributed financially to these migrants. The journalists and photographers don’t have crores of rupees at their disposal. It is the duty of the state to provide relief to the one who is suffering.

“All these people wanting to intervene need to apply the vulture and child story. What have they contributed? Before entertaining any of them, ask them to file an affidavit on what has been their contribution? Except for writing on social media, penning articles, giving interviews.”

-Solicitor General Tushar Mehta

It’s been more than two months since this issue of migrant workers exodus came to light. During this period, many of them died. It’s unfortunate that the authorities, the executive and the judiciary only come into action when the sufferings

Needless to say, the hostile behaviour of the Government, the lies by the one who is representing the Government, the inattention on the part of the apex court has collectively contributed to the delay in bestowing justice to the migrant workers.


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