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High Courts Well Within Their Jurisdiction to Take Cognizance of The Violation of The Fundamental Rights Of Migrant Laborers: SC

By ParthThummar      10 June, 2020 08:53 PM      0 Comments
High Courts Well Within Their Jurisdiction to Take Cognizance of The Violation of The Fundamental Rights Of Migrant Laborers: SC

A Full Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S. K. Kaul and M. R. Shah of the Supreme Court while passing an order in the suomotu case on June 09, 2020, made it clear that High Courts are well within their jurisdiction to take cognizance of the violation of the fundamental rights of migrant laborers. The Supreme Court also clarified that the proceedings in the High Courts will continue. 

The Court at para number 25 of the order observed that,

“It has also been brought before us that various High Courts have also taken notice of cases of migrant laborers. High Courts being constitutional Courts are well within their jurisdiction to take cognizance of violation of fundamental rights of migrant workers and we have no doubt that those proceedings shall proceed after considering all aspects including the response of concerned authorities.”

During the hearing on May 2, 2020, the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, had taken objection to High Courts intervening in the migrants’ issue by saying that some High Courts were running a parallel government. 

Many High Courts have adopted a prominent and pro-active approach to deal with various issues faced by migrant workers due to lockdown. It was the Gujarat HC, which had taken suomotu cognizance of the migrant crisis as early as in March and observed that migrants were the worst affected due to lockdown. It has passed a series of directions to ensure that their basic needs like food and shelter are met. The Court had also directed the railways to either waive off their one-way charges or the State to bear their fare. 

The Karnataka High Court had passed the orders in line with the Gujarat High Court and after some adverse observations and orders, the Karnataka Government had decided to bear the cost of migrants' travel from Karnataka to their native states. 

The Andhra Pradesh High Court went further and observed that the Court would be failing in its role, if it does not react to the issue of migrants being forced to walk hundreds of kilometers to their native places and proceeded to pass a slew of directions to ensure proper availability of food, toilets, and medical help, etc. for these migrants. 

"It is a pity to see the migrant laborers walking for days together to reach their native places and in the process, some of them had lost their lives due to accidents", the Madras HC was compelled to observe. 

The High Court of Kerala, the Orissa High Court and Bombay High Court have also taken suo moto notice of the issue of migrants and are passing necessary directions.

In its order the Supreme Court had passed following further directions (in addition to directions passed on May 28, 2020) to the Central Government, all States, and Union Territories:


  1. All the States/Union Territories shall take all necessary steps regarding the identification of stranded migrant workers in their State which are willing to return to their native places and take steps for their return journey by train/bus which process may be completed within a period of 15 days from June 09, 2020.
  2. In event of any additional demand, in addition to the demand of 171 Shramik trains, as noticed above, the railway shall provide Shramik trains within a period of 24 hours as submitted by learned Solicitor General to facilitate the return journey of migrant workers.
  3. The Central Government may give details of all schemes which can be availed by migrant workers who have returned to their native places.
  4. All States and Union Territories shall also give details of all schemes which are currently in the State, the benefit of which can be taken by the migrant laborers including different schemes for providing employment.
  5. The State shall establish counseling centers, help desk at block and district level to provide all necessary information regarding schemes of the Government and to extend helping hand to migrant laborers to identify avenues of employment and benefits which can be availed by them under the different schemes.
  6. The details of all migrant laborers, who have reached their native places, shall be maintained with details of their skill, nature of employment, earlier place of employment. The list of migrant laborers shall be maintained village wise, block-wise, and district wise to facilitate the administration to extend the benefit of different schemes which may be applicable to such migrant workers.
  7. The counseling centers, established, as directed above, shall also provide the necessary information by extending helping hand to those migrant workers who have returned to their native places and who want to return to their places of employment.
  8. All concerned States/UTs to consider withdrawal of prosecution/complaints under Section 51 of Disaster Management Act, 2005 and other related offenses lodged against the migrant laborers who alleged to have violated measures of Lockdown by moving on roads during the period of Lockdown enforced under Disaster Management Act, 2005.

The suomotu case in the Supreme Court will be further considered on July 8 to take stock of the progress.

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