A bench of the Supreme Court comprising of the Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Deepak Gupta while hearing a PIL by Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj seeking immediate payment of wages to migrant workers amid COVID-19 lockdown said that Court cannot interfere with the policy decisions of the government and that no payment of money to migrant workers were required since they were receiving food at the shelter homes.
While hearing the petition Chief Justice informed the Court that the affidavit on behalf of Centre had been received today morning. Advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for the petitioner said that he had not been served with the copy of the affidavit.
Prashant Bhushan submitted that more than 4 lakh migrant workers were living in shelter homes which is “a mockery of social distancing.” He further submitted that according to their survey reports more than 40% of these workers did not try to migrate and are living in their own homes in the cities and now they do not have money to buy even one day’s meal.
Chief Justice asked Prashant Bhushan that if the migrant workers were being provided meals then why did they need money for meals to which Mr. Bhushan replied “they don’t just need food in the shelter homes. we need to give them money to send to their families back home”
Chief Justice Bobde negating Advocate Bhushan’s submissions said “We cannot say at this stage that they are not getting the food.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta thereafter informed the bench that the Government has set up call centres to address complaints which is being administered by the Home Ministry.
Advocate Bhushan further submitted that the food which was being served at the Shelter homes was “inedible.”
Chief Justice replying to Bhushan’s submissions said “we are not experts and don’t intend to interfere without knowing what it is all about. We do not plan to supplant the wisdom of the government with our wisdom. We will ask the government to create a helpline for complaints.”
SG Mehta added “Except vague assertions there is no fact in this PIL.”
While the bench said that it would grant time to Advocate Bhushan to read the status report, Bhushan said that “by Monday many people will die. The people who are registered with the government need to be given some money to send their families.”
However, the bench asked the petitioners to read the status report filed by the Centre and adjourned the matter till Monday, April 13.
-India Legal Bureau