The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed displeasure over non-filing of affidavits by Maharashtra and Delhi on implementation of three enactments which are aimed at helping workers. Non-filing of affidavit clearly indicates that the states are not interested in implementing the aforesaid enactments, a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said, while hearing the matter related to migrant workers who where hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown.
The maximum number of migrants are working in Maharashtra and Delhi, the bench said. The bench said that in its July 31 order, the apex court had specifically directed states to file affidavit with regard to operation and implementation of three enactments — Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1979, Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1996 and Unorganized Workers' Social Security Act, 2008. Although various states have filed their reply but the states of Maharashtra and NCT of Delhi have not filed their affidavits in compliance of our order dated July 31, 2020, said the bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M Shah. The states of Maharashtra and Delhi are the states where the maximum number of migrants have come and are working, the bench said in its order.
It said when the court had passed specific order directing the states to file affidavits, its intention was to see the working of these acts. The counsel appearing for Maharashtra and Delhi requested the court for further time to file affidavit in the matter.
We grant further two weeks' time to the states of Maharashtra and NCT of Delhi as well as to the other states, who have not filed their affidavit in compliance of order dated July 31, the bench said and posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks. On July 31, the apex court had directed the states and Union Territories (UTs) to file affidavits within three weeks giving details of the "mode and manner" in which records are being maintained about migrant labourers, who have reached their native places due to the COVID-19 induced nationwide lockdown.
The apex court had said that despite its June 9 order directing the states and UTs to transport all stranded workers by trains or other modes within 15 days, there are still migrant workers who are stranded in different states including Maharashtra. In its June 9 order, the court had issued several directions and asked the Centre and states to identify and send back within 15 days the stranded migrant workers willing to return to their native places and advocated for their counselling and help to find avenues of employment lost during COVID-19 induced lockdown.
The apex court, which is dealing with the issue of "problems and miseries" of migrant workers, had earlier asked the authorities to consider "withdrawal" of criminal cases lodged against them for violating social distancing norms. In May, the top court had passed a slew of directions including asking the states not to charge fare from the workers and provide them food free of cost till they board trains of buses.