SC takes suo motu cognisance of migrant crisis

Apex court directs that migrants be provided food, shelter and transport free of cost


The Supreme Court has, in an unexpected intervention on Tuesday, May 26,  taken suo moto cognizance of the glaring migrant crisis in the country. The Supreme Court, taking note of the many media reports showing the unfortunate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers walking on foot and bicycles covering long distances, has sought some answers from the government.

This move comes after several brush offs on the issue from the highest court. On May 15, Justices L Nageswara Rao and SK Kaul had dismissed an an application seeking urgent directions to all District Magistrates to identify the walking labourers and to ensure that they reach their homes, free of cost and in a dignified manner. In a much commented upon order, the judges had remarked that “we cannot stop migrants from walking hundreds of kilometres to their homes!” This reluctance of the court to step in and protect the fundamnetal rights of vast numbers of Indians had invited widespread criticism from former Supreme Court judges, senior advocates and other respected members of the legal fraternity.

On May 26, while finally taking cognisance of the issue, the court said it has been receiving letters from different sections of society highlighting the problem of migrant labourers. The Court said, “Although the Government of India and the State Governments have taken measures yet there have been inadequacies and certain lapses,” and stressed on the importance of “effective concentrated efforts” in order to redeem the situation. The court has directed both the Centre and state governments to provide adequate transport arrangement, food and shelters free of cost to these stranded migrant labourers.

The bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah has issued notice to the Centre and all states governments as well as Union Territories and has asked the Centre to “bring  to he notice of the Court all measures and steps taken by the Government of India and to be taken in this regard”. This suo moto cognizance by the Supreme Court re-opens a pressing issue that had been closed by the Court over past weeks. The case which has been titled “In RE: Problems and Miseries of migrant labourers” has been listed for next hearing on May 28.

The Supreme Court order can be read here.


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