SC issues directions to ensure migrants are transported within 15 days: Suo Motu action

The court has asked the police departments to keep a check on police excess and states to consider withdrawal of cases against migrants for flouting lockdown rules by moving back to home states when MHA had prohibited the same. The court issues special directions for Maharashtra alone and none to the Centre


The Supreme Court, had, on June 5 reserved its order for giving another set of directions to Centre and states and had stated then that its order would comprise of directions related to transport of migrants, their registrations and employment opportunities in home states.

On May 26, the bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, had taken suo moto cognizance of many media reports showing unfortunate and miserable conditions of the migrant labourers walking on foot and bicycles covering long distances.

On May 29, the bench issued an interim order directing states to ensure the migrants are not charged any travel fare and are provided with food free of cost, as well as to ensure proper registration is being done and the migrants are informed when they will be sent back to their native states.

Before having a look at the directions issued by the bench on June 9, here is what the Centre and some states claim to have done for the benefit of migrant workers.

Centre’s submissions

  • Initially on March 25, 2020, when the National lockdown was declared, the first priority was to contain the spread of vires and to ensure that no human movement took place to one area to another including the movement of migrant workers. However, after assessing the overall situation, a decision was taken on April 29, 2020 by Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, of allowing movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, students and other persons, who were stranded at different places. (This was a month and four days after the lockdown was announced).

  • Approximately 57.22 lakh migrants have been shifted to various destinations located in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh etc by Shramik special trains.

  • About 41 lakh migrant workers have been taken from their respective places to their desired destination through road transport.

  • No fare is being charged from the migrant labourers and the same is borne as per arrangement between originating State and receiving State for the train travel.

  • Since several States were not giving consent for allowing the Shramik special trains to destinations within these states, despite demand, Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order on May 19, 2020 removing the need for consent.

  • During the train journeys, food and water is provided by the originating State and for a journey that lasts for more than a period of 12 hours, one meal is also provided by railways.

  • The Central Government, with the support of National Highway Authority of India is facilitating the shifting of migrant workers, who were found walking on the roads, by providing them with the requisite transport to the nearest railway stations

  • Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana @ 5 kg per person per month for a period of three months (April-June, 2020) is being distributed free of cost

Submissions of states


  • The Government of Maharashtra has taken a policy decision on March 29, 2020 to provide free of cost immediate relief to the persons, labourers, displaced workers including migrant labourers, who are affected due to lockdown by way of establishing relief shelter camps.

  • About 12 lakh migrant labourers have been sent to their native places. More than 5 lakhs passengers have been ferried free of cost by buses of Maharashtra Road Transport Corporation.

  • Registrations of migrant workers are being done and a list of migrant labourers have been prepared by the State and most of the labourers have been shifted to relief shelters where they are waiting for their turn to board the buses and trains.

Directions to Maharashtra

State has to take a more vigilant and concentrated effort in identifying the migrant workers, who are still stranded in State of Maharashtra and who are willing to return to their native places. The Government should publicise and announce the places i.e police stations or any other suitable place for identifying/registering the workers, who have not yet been provided any train or bus journey. The State Supervisory Committee, District Supervisory Committee and its officials should ensure that all migrant labourers, who are willing to go to their native place, should be identified, provide them food and shelter and no complaint is received of not providing facility of journey or food by the stranded migrant labourers.

Only the state of Maharashtra was singled out for specific directions. The SC issued no directions to the Centre.


  • From NCT of Delhi about 3 lakhs migrant workers have been sent to their native places by 236 trains and about 12,000 have been sent by buses.

  • About 6.5 lakh persons have already registered themselves at the web portal of the Government of NCT of Delhi.

  • About 2 lakh migrant labourers have chosen to not to go to their native places, presumably due to the fact that after opening of the industry and establishment they have re-engaged themselves to the work.

  • There are medical, screening and help desk centres to facilitate the migrant workers.


  • Till June 1, 2020, more than 14 lakhs migrant workers have been sent to their native places by 999 Shramik trains.

  • From March 24, 2020, no train fares for Shramik trains are being charged from the migrant workers.

  • Approximately 5,75,000 workers have been sent by road transport to other States. He submits that out of 23 lakhs of migrant workers in all, about 20,50,000 have already been sent.

  • For registration of such requests, an online portal “Digital Gujarat” has been set up by the Government and also a parallel, effective, decentralised system has also been worked out. Once the name of the migrant worker is included in the list, he or she gets to depart for the native State within 4-5 days and they are informed accordingly.

  • The Government of Gujarat has decided to transfer Rs.1000/- directly to the account of workers including migrant labourers registered under the Building and other Constructions Workers Welfare Board.

Uttar Pradesh

  • A total of 25 lakh workers have successfully and safely returned to their homes in the State.

  • The migrant labourers are sent for home quarantine for 15 days and while leaving centre he is provided one ration kit as well as a cash amount of Rs.1000/-.

  • More than 1 lakh migrant labourers have been safely deported to their native States.

  • At present there is no migrant labour left in the State of Uttar Pradesh, who has to go to any State.

  • Health and medical facilities have also been provided and shelter home arrangements for food is also been made by the State Government and there is inspection and supervision to all facilities.

  • For migrants walking on roads pick-up and drop points have been made on National Highways and the migrants are taken to shelter homes or quarantine centre.

  • State Government is also taking steps for providing more and more employment to migrant labourers who have come in the State. Several institutions have proposed to provide opportunity for employment in their industrial units of about 11 lakh migrants.


  • 28 lakh migrants have returned to the State of Bihar via trains and road

  • The State is in the process of setting up District Counselling Centre for migrant labourers, who shall examine the skill level of the skilled/unskilled labourers and suggest the options of employment available in the State.

  • The State has also provided Rs.1000/- to each migrant of Bihar stranded outside the State.

Madhya Pradesh

  • About 14 lakh migrant labourers have returned to the State

  • The State proposed to undertake survey of migrant labourers and the labourers will be registered under different schemes to provide possible employment to them. Control room has been established for helping migrant labourers.


  • About 13.6 lakh migrant labourers have returned back and there are not many migrant labourers, who are left in the State of Rajasthan to awaiting return to their native places.


  • There are less than 1 lakh stranded migrant workers, who are still awaiting return.

  • Due to opening of the industries in the bangalore and other areas, most of the workers have re-joined their employment.


  • 1.53 lakh workers have been transferred to 100 Shramik trains. There are 1.2 lakh workers still awaiting for return.

West Bengal

  • The state submits that6,82,558 workers are still to come to West Bengal from other states

  • State is willing to accommodate as many special trains as are further required by originating State.

  • For travel by special trains, the entire cost, on behalf of the migrants, is being borne by the State of West Bengal.

  • despite severe cyclone AMPHAN and the disaster caused by the natural calamity, Government of West Bengal remains committed to steadily bring back the migrant workers through a systematic process.

  • In a short period, not more than two weeks, all stranded workers shall be send to their native places.

Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for intervenors prayed that the court issues directions to Centre to bring on record the guidelines for the Minimum Standards of Relief to be provided to the persons effected by the disaster as contemplated in Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Indira Jaising sought directions that registrations be simplified and number of trains be increased and information on the same be widely publicised. She also asked for compensation for these migrant workers. She also sought directions that Finance Minister’s announcement on May 14, 2020, promising 5 kgs of grain per person and 1 kg of Chana Dal to per family per month free of cost for two months, be implemented within two weeks.

Advocate Colin Gonsalves submitted that migrant workers who reach to their native place if found asymptomatic should not be quarantined and Quarantine Centres be used only for symptomatic migrants only.

The National Human Rights Commission as well intervened and submitted that it has taken suo motu cognizance of the issues and had issued notices to various Government departments. It also suggested certain shortterm measures and long-term measures to ameliorate the conditions of the migrant workers.

The bench on implementation

There can be no exception to the policies and intentions of the State but what is important is that those on whom implementation of circulars, policies and schemes are entrusted are efficiently and correctly implementing those schemes. Lapses and short-comings in implementing the schemes and policies have been highlighted by various intervenors in their applications and affidavits. The responsibility of the States/Union Territories is not only to referring their policy, measures contemplated, funds allocated but there has to be strict vigilance and supervision as to whether those measures, schemes, benefits reaches to those to whom they are meant.

The bench on police excess

Police officers of States, para-military forces wherever deployed are doing commendable job but some instances of excess with regard to migrant labourers are also there. The migrant labourers, who were forced to proceed to their native place, after cessation of their employment are already suffering. The Financial difficulty being with all the migrant labourers invariably they have to dealt by the police and other authorities in a humane manner. The concerned Director General of Police/Police Commissioner may issue necessary directions in this regard.

The court askedall States and Union Territories to bring on record the different schemes which are enforced in the concerned State which may benefit these migrant labourers so that the court can issue appropriate direction in that regard. these are to be submitted on the next date of hearing, July 8, when the bench will also take further stock of the situation.

Further, the court observed that the Ministry of Home Affairs order dated March 29, 2020 mentioned that movement of migrants towards their home states amounted to violation of lockdown measures and constituted an offence under Section 51 of Disaster Management Act, 2005. Thus, Police Authorities started stopping such movements and also registered FIRs against the migrant labourers. The court asked the states to consider withdrawing Prosecution/Complaints lodged against such migrant labourers for offence under section 51 of Disaster Management Act, 2005 and other related offences.

Directions issued to other states

  • All the States/Union 22 Territories to transport all stranded workers by train, bus or other mode within 15 days from today.

  • Identification of migrant workers be immediately completed by all the States/Union Territories and those migrant workers, who are not yet registered, immediate steps be taken by decentralising the process of registration by providing facility of registration to the migrant workers at nearby places including police stations and other places of local administration as may be notified.

  • Information regarding journey by train and bus, which is to be undertaken by stranded workers should be publicise through local newspapers, local T.V. channels so that necessary information reaches to concerned migrant workers.

  • Maintain a record of all such migrant workers, who have arrived at different places, towns in different States.

  • Details of migrant workers, nature of their skill, place of their earlier employment be maintained in prescribed proforma to be formulated by the concerned State at village level, block level and the district level so that necessary helps can be extended by the State authorities and district authorities to these migrant labourers.

  • Counselling centres be set up by the concerned State at block level and the district level to provide all information regarding Government schemes and other avenues of employment to these workers and where possible to expand the avenues of employment to these workers so that they may not sit idle and they may be utilised as a resource by the State.

  • States to facilitate the return of the workers who want to return to their employment. Necessary information should be provided by the State in this regard by creating help desk with the help of railway authorities and road transport authorities.

  • Consider withdrawing Prosecution/Complaints lodged against such migrant labourers for offence under section 51 of Disaster Management Act, 2005 and other related offences.



The complete order can be read here.



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