Supreme Court Issued Notice to Centre on a plea seeking directions for immediate payment of minimum wages to migrant workers and self- employed poor affected people by the Complete Lockdown due to Coronavirus (nCOVID-19) pandemic.
A bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Deepak Gupta issued notice to the Central Government on a a petition seeking enforcement of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of all migrant workers amid COVID-19 Pandemic. The government has been directed to file its reply by 7th April, 2020.
The petition has been filed by Social Activists, Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj praying for directions to the Central as well as the state governmnets to provide minimum wages to all migrant workers within a week. The petitioner has further prayed for directions to immediately activate National and State Advisory Committee of experts in the field of disaster management and public health and prepare plans for dealing with the COVID epidemic.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta today raised objections on filing of PILS stating that “these PILS shops must close down. Genuine persons are helping people on the ground. Sitting in AC rooms and filing PILS does not help.” The bench however issued notice owing to the plight of the migrant workers in the unorganized sector in time of crisis.
The petitioner has further highlighted that after the announcement of 21 day lockdown an order was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 29th march which asks employer of the migrant workers to pay their wages during the lockdown and their landlords not to charge them rent for this period. The petitioner however has submitted that the order is inadequate in response to the large scale exodus of migrant workers.
Moreover it is also unrealistic to expect the small establishments employing migrant workers to pay them their wages at their place of work. Due to the lockdown the workers are unable to travel to their place of work and many of these establishments have been forced to shut down and hence employers will not be able to pay these wages.
The petition further states that “the order ignores the harsh realities that workers have to persistently face in cities that is further compounded when a lockdown order deprives them of their job, daily wages and hence means of survival, thus violating their Article 21 rights.”
The petitioner has submitted that the lockdown has led to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis especially among the class of migrant workers and it is the duty of the government, both Central and State to take adequate measures in accordance with National and State plans drawn out under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, to deal with this epidemic.
-India Legal Bureau