Thursday, November 30, 2023

SC declines compensation to workers of unorganised sector due to lockdown

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a PIL seeking directions to the Central Government to formulate a scheme to provide compensation for the loss of income caused to persons working in the unorganised sector including as self employed for loss of income caused by the lock down imposed to combat COVID-19.

The PIL was filed by Shri R Subramanian, who is a practising advocate and is also a graduate engineer from IIT Madras and a post graduate in management from IIM Ahmedabad. The Petitioner has in the capacity of an Advocate been supporting pro bono the activities of a Chennai based NGO India Awake for Transparency which has been active in various matters of public interest.

The petition seeks direction to Central and State Governments to formulate a scheme to recompense to the persons from economically weaker backgrounds who are daily wage earners or self employed or wage earners in the unorganised sector in respect of the complete deprivation of income suffered by them by the lock down and forced cessation of their vocations and trade during the national lock down for COVID-19. The Petitioner through the instant Writ Petition also seeks that the operations of the provisions of Section 4 of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act 2003 be stayed in the interim to ensure that the same is not a  constraint on the Union is discharging its duty as guardian and protector of its citizens.

The petitioner has preferred the PIL on following grounds:-

  • The unorganised work forces including self employed are dependent for their sustenance on daily earnings and in the absence of such daily earnings their sustenance itself is at stake.
  • The nature of the pandemic being unprecedented and lock down was sudden and unanticipated there was no manner in which such persons could have been better prepared and averted the consequences of the difficulties now faced by them.
  • The livelihood is blocked in national interest and not for any fault of the persons denied livelihood themselves the Union as the ultimate guardian is bound to ensure their protection.
  • Any continued deprivation of income would lead to serious and irreversible social consequences for such persons.
  • The Union of India as the sovereign is bound to support the states and compensate the states for losses arising from such national calamity unprecedented and unanticipated.

The case came up for hearing before bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul & Justice B.R. Gavai wherein the Justice Ramana asked the petitioner, how can we direct the Central Government to give money to the states? If they want to, they will do it. If they have the money, they will give it. Are we experts in the matter.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said All solutions don’t lie in fault. There is elected government also, they will see. We wont see adequacy and inadequacy and all. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that issue raised in the PIL will be taken up as a representation by the government and action will be taken.

-India Legal Bureau

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