Centre agrees to submit status report on migrant workers to SC, but slams frivolous PILs | India News


NEW DELHI: The Centre on Friday agreed to submit status report on migrant workers to the Supreme Court by April 7 but slammed three rights activists for filing ‘frivolous PILs for gaining cheap publicity to serve their ulterior movie” without making any contribution to ongoing gigantic efforts by governments and genuine NGOs an public spirited citizens to contain the spread of Covid-19 in India.
Activists Harsh Mandher, Anjali Bharadwaj and Swami Agnivesh through counsel Prashant Bhushan and Colin Gonsalves sought immediate payment of minimum wages to all migrant workers from organised and unorganised sectors. They also questioned Arvind Kejriwal government’s claim of feeding six lakh poor, destitute and migrant workers in Delhi citing media reports to allege that several were going hungry in the national capital and wondered what could be the condition of migrant workers put up in shelter homes in various states.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta sought to know the Centre’s response to the PILs. Solicitor general Tushar Mehta readily agreed to file the status report by April 7, but said such frivolous PILs distract top officials in states from their strenuous work of supervising a gigantic exercise day and night to contain spread of Covid-19 as they need to take out considerable time to sit with lawyers to prepare responses to such PILs.
During the video-conference hearing, the SG minced no words when he said, “none of these PIL petitioners have even bothered to serve poor and needy or those infected by Covid-19. Therefore, they can never be termed as ‘public spirited persons’. Genuine NGOs and bona fide public spirited persons are contributing hugely to th nation by working shoulder to shoulder with governments to help needy and poor as well as assist doctors and patients in several ways.”
In a broadside at the activist petitioners, he said, “Preparing PILs sitting in air-conditioned offices or houses without any ground level information is not public service and it could not entitle any of them to argue PILs, particularly during present crisis. Till the country comes out of this unprecedented health crisis, such ‘professional PIL shops’ must be locked down as none of the petitioners have shown any real concern for poor and needy or thousands fighting the deadly virus.”
He said forum of constitutional courts were being miused by these petitioners to gain cheap publicity for ulterior objectives. “In the midst of of a war-like exercise to contain Covid-19, it will be unwise to waste top government officials’ precious time in preparing replies to these PILs. It could be better utilised in monitoring ground level activities. Constitutional courts should be circumspect in entertaining such frivolous PILs during this unprecedented health crisis to avoid hindering governments’ efforts to pull the country out to safety,” he said.
The PILs have sought a direction to the Centre and states to immediately start paying minimum wages to all migrant workers, including self-employed ones like rickshaw pullers etc, who are unable to earn livelihood because of lockdown. They said the sudden and ill-planned lockdown led to massive exodus of migrant workers, disrupting their livelihood. It may be recalled that the SC bench of CJI S A Bobde and Justice Rao on Tuesday had accepted the Centre’s contention that fake news about three month lockdown had caused the exodus of migrant workers. It had directed the Centre and state governments to ensure supply of food, water and shelter to all the migrant workers, poor and destitute.
In another prayer, the petitioners sought a direction to the governments “to immediately activate National and State Advisory Committees of experts in the field of disaster management and public health and prepare national and state disaster management plans for dealing with the COVID epidemic, taking into account all relevant aspects, mitigation measure, their possible costs and consequences Disaster Management Act, 2005.”



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