Monday, October 2, 2023

Karnataka HC Directs Government To Take Measures For Migrant Workers And To Curb Domestic Violence

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The Karnataka High Court on Friday heard writ petition on the issues prevailing in the State in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown and directed the state government to take various measures for migrant workers and to curb domestic violence.

A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Abhay S. Oka & Justice B.B. Nagarathna, while hearing the writ petition considered the various issues of condition of migrant workers in the State during lockdown, incidents of domestic violence and issue of people suffering from mental illness during the lockdown.

Condition of migrants during lockdown: The Court observed that directions have been issued previously on the issue of identification of the migrants who are in the streets, beggars, homeless persons and other vulnerable sections of the society who are in the city without any shelter, including a direction to Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to identify such persons. According to the submissions, BBMP has identified a far greater number than just 411 persons in the city who appear to be in the streets without shelter and that majority of them have refused to relocate themselves to the centres and hostels.

 The Commissioner of BBMP on 16th April, 2020 passed the following directions:

  • The Zonal Joint Commissioners with the help of marshals and KSTDC buses will identify the migrants, homeless and other poor people who are on the roads in the city without shelter and food.
  • These people will be respectfully picked up and taken to the nearest hostels which have been declared as relief centres and be provided with proper accommodation, food and health facilities at the centres.
  • The action will continue till all such migrant workers are identified in the city and lodged in the shelter homes.

The Court has directed the State Government to place on record all the reports submitted by the Chief Marshal of BBMP and reports of all the Zonal Joint Commissioners. The Zonal Joint Commissioners has been directed to submit reports about the steps taken to identify the homeless persons. The reports have to be submitted on record through the office of the Government Advocate and while submitting the reports, the Zonal Joint Commissioners have to elaborate on how large number of homeless people have refused to come to the shelters provided to them.

It was submitted that the identification of the persons who are without shelter is being made by making public announcements by use of BBMP vehicles and garbage collection vehicles, and also deployed buses to pick up homeless people and relocate them to the relief centres.

The Court has asked the State Government to clarify if in the present situation, the homeless people can be allowed to stay on streets, because if persons continue to stay on streets, there will be a violation of norms including the norms of social distancing. Therefore, BBMP and the State Government must also disclose whether any effort is being made to ascertain these people on the streets have symptoms of infection of corona virus.

The Court has asked the State Government to explain its stand on the steps being taken to prevent spread of corona virus amongst the migrant and construction workers and their families who are staying in the huts.

According to the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Ward Committee) Rules, 2016, Disaster Management Cells at ward level need to be formed by the Chairperson of Ward Committees. Therefore, the State Government must state whether such Disaster Management Cells at ward levels have been established as presence of such Disaster Management Cells will be helpful to deal with the present situation created by the spread of corona virus.

The bench directed the State Government to issue requisite directions to all the urban local authorities in the State to take steps for identification of various categories of migrants having shelter and migrants as well as homeless people stranded on the streets, and also to trace the migrant workers from other States who are in the State of Karnataka.

The state government submitted that people belonging to the vulnerable groups needing shelter and food will be accommodated in the existing camps or in the newly opened camps where food, clean drinking water, access to clean toilets and medical care will be provided. The people belonging to the vulnerable groups who do not have ration cards will be provided with prepared food or dry ration. Dry ration kits will be supplied at the door steps of the individuals identified by the local officials. It will be ensured that where prepared food is being supplied, the daily requirements of food of at least two meals a day of individual are met.

The Court, considering the absence of dal in the food being provided to people who are below poverty line, has asked the State to look into this discrepancy and consider whether BPL cardholders can be provided with dal as a part of the ration.

The bench directed the State Government to ensure the implementation of the Circular dated 18th April, 2020 issued by the Principal Secretary of the Revenue Department of the Government regarding the facilities to be provided to the migrant labourers and vulnerable groups affected due to lockdown.

Issue of domestic violence during lockdown: The Court while considering the issue of domestic violence noted that the State Government has come out with the measures and have also given details of the calls received making a grievance regarding domestic violence. However, the Court is not certain if after receiving the calls, the protection officers have been informed to take action under the statute. A direction has been issued to the State Legal Service Authority to provide legal aid and support to One-Stop Center and Women Helplines, and necessary steps have taken by the KSLSA and including a letter being addressed by the 20 Secretary of the KSLSA to all the Chairpersons of the District Legal Services Authorities (DSLSAs) for nomination of two women lawyers to provide legal aid and support to One-Stop Centres.

Issue of mental illness suffered by the citizens due to lockdown:  National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-sciences (NIMHANS) at Bengaluru has taken certain steps. The Court has asked Dr. Naveen Kumar who is looking after the Helplines provided by the NIMHANS to appear in the next hearing through video conferencing.

The next hearing of the case is scheduled for 28th April, 2020, wherein the Court will consider the issue of rural distress and issue of farmers.

-India Legal Bureau

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