The Supreme Court today agreed to hear a petition relating to payment of wages by the government to all migrant workers, whether formal, informal or self-employed, amidst the national lockdown. The plea was mentioned by Advocate Prashant Bhushan, before Justice L Nageshwar Rao by telephone and is scheduled to be listed on the day the court sits next.
The petition filed by social activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj mentions that, the lockdown order issued by the Central government under the Disaster Management Act discriminates arbitrarily between citizens affected by the same disaster.
The Petitioners have pointed out that the Disaster Management Act obliges the Central and State governments to prepare a detailed plan and machinery for dealing with and mitigating the effects of disasters, including taking steps required to help the victims of the disasters whether direct or indirect in accordance with the plan.
This makes it the duty of both the state as well as the central governments to jointly and severally ensure payments of minimum wages to all the migrants, who are the indirect victims of the COVID-19 disaster.
The Petitioner asserted that the government’s inaction in protecting the lives of these migrant workers, who are being forced to move back to their villages during this “unprecedented humanitarian crisis”, is violative of their right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Inter alia, the Petitioners have prayed that the government be directed to immediately activate National and State Advisory committees of experts in the field of disaster management and public health to prepare national and state disaster management plans for dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic, taking into account all relevant aspects, mitigation measure’ their possible costs and consequences as required under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
–India Legal Bureau