Letter by advocates makes SC address migrants' issue

Scathing letter by senior advocates stir up SC to take up migrants' crisis

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A scathing letter written by a group of senior advocates has stirred the Supreme Court to take up Suo Motu cognizance of 'problems and miseries of migrant workers', who were forced to walk hundreds of kilometres to reach their native places, following the nationwide lockdown imposed on March 25 to contain COVID-19 pandemic.

They reminded the top court that "institutional deference to statements made on behalf of the government and the court’s apparent indifference to this enormous humanitarian crisis, would if not rectified immediately, amount to the court having abdicated its constitutional role and duty to these teeming millions of poor, hungry migrants."

In response to a PIL, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made a statement on March 31 that no migrant person was walking on the roads in an attempt to reach his or her home towns villages. 

This has led the court to express satisfaction with the steps taken by the government to combat Covid-19. It had proceeded to observe that “the migration of labourers working in the cities was triggered by panic created by fake news that the lock down would continue for more than three months".

The letter said the government’s statement has been clearly shown to be contrary to the facts. Several reports suggested that more than 90% of migrant workers did not receive government rations in many States and were suffering from dire food shortage. 

The signatories to the letter included P Chidambaram, Indira Jaising, Anand Grover, Kapil Sibal, Sidharth Luthra, Mohan Katarki, Santosh Paul, Chander Uday Singh, Vikas Singh and Prashant Bhushan. 

A number of senior advocates from the Bombay High Court also signed the letter, namely Iqbal Chagla, Aspi Chinoy, Mihir Desai, Janak Dwarkadas, Rajani Iyer, Yusuf Muchhala, Rajiv Patil, Navroz Seervai, Gayatri Singh and Sanjay Singhvi.

They said, "the current migrant crisis is symptomatic of how the constitutional promises of equality, life, freedom and dignity have been totally ignored by the government while imposing arbitrary executive measures."

The Supreme Court’s "unwillingness to hold the government to account and to provide succor to these poor millions, will severely erode its constitutional role and status as the guardian of the fundamental rights of the people", they added.

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