A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Central Government to allow migrant workers to return to their hometowns and villages after testing them for COVID-19 and for the authorities to provide for their safe travel back home.
Prof. Jagdeep S. Chhokar, the petitioner, has submitted that in view of the extension of the nationwide Lockdown, the migrant workers who are amongst the worst affected category of people due to the ongoing- lockdown must be allowed to go back to their homes after being tested for COVID-19. He adds those who test negative for COVID-19 must not be forcefully kept in shelters or away from their homes and families against their wishes. The government, according to him, should allow for their safe travel to their hometowns and villages and provide necessary transportation for the same.
Petitioner has referred to recent media reports, which show that migrant workers are protesting on streets in some places due to non-payment of their wages and demanding to return to their native villages. Reference to media reports showing harassment and beating up of migrant workers has also been made in the petition.
“Although the national lockdown has been necessitated because of the unprecedented pandemic of COVID-’19 and its imposition is much needed, it is submitted by the Petitioners herein that the fundamental right of the migrant workers enshrined under Article 19(1)(d) [right to move freely throughout the territory of India and Article 19(1 )(e) of the Constitution of India [right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India] cannot be suspended for an indefinite period forcing these migrant workers to stay away from their families and living in unpredictable and arduous conditions, as the same is an unreasonable restriction beyond what is envisaged under Article 19(5) of the Constitution of India”, says petitioner.
According to the petitioner, this extension of lockdown is casting an unreasonable and heavier burden on the migrant workers who are stranded in cities of their migration as compared to those who are living with their own families at their own residences. The same, says the petitioner, is also violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Petitioner also stresses that Article 21 of the Constitution of India also envisages the right to live with dignity and the same is being denied to these migrant workers.
The petition has been filed through Advocate on Record (AoR) Prashant Bhushan and drawn by Advocates Neha Rathi and Jatin Bhardwaj.