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SC Stays Orissa HC Order Asking State to Allow only COVID-19 Negative Migrants to Return Home

Image for representation. Migrants arrive from Surat by a special train at Praygraj railway station. (PTI Photo)

Image for representation. Migrants arrive from Surat by a special train at Praygraj railway station. (PTI Photo)

The high court, in its interim order passed on Thursday, had suggested the state should ensure that only those who have tested negative for COVID-19 are allowed to return.

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the order of the Orissa High Court asking the state government to ensure that all migrants, who are in queue to enter Odisha, should be tested negative for COVID-19 before boarding the conveyance.

The high court, in its interim order passed on Thursday, had suggested the state should ensure that only those who have tested negative for COVID-19 are allowed to return.

A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan stayed the high court order that was challenged by the Centre. The apex court issued notice to the concerned parties on the appeal mentioned by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

"The high court, by way of the impugned order, has without hearing the Union of India passed an interim order mandating the COVID-19 testing of every migrant before boarding the conveyance," the plea filed in the top court said, adding the order may have a "cascading effect" on migrants of other states as well.

It claimed that the order, "apart from being unworkable", failed to notice the standard operating procedure already being followed by the Centre and the state governments.

"It is humbly submitted that impugned order clearly impinges upon the executive domain and creates an unreasonable and impossible to perform pre-condition on part of the governments and the migrants workers who wish to travel back to their native places," it said, adding that the high court order ignores the nature of the pandemic and the "delicate handling of the situation by the executive, after consideration of all possible factors".

The appeal said the Centre, in conjunction with state governments, is taking all possible precautions at the stage of boarding, during travel, after de-boarding and subsequent quarantine.

The Centre has told the apex court that after completion of a strict 40-day lockdown, in which no inter-state travel of any kind was permitted, a decision was taken that migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons stranded at different places would be allowed to travel back to their native places.

It said the Centre, in conjunction with the governments, has taken all possible precautionary steps to make sure travel of migrants does not result in the spread of COVID-19.

The appeal, which sought setting aside of the high court order, said 'Shramik special' trains have been started and till now, a total of 162 trains have originated.

Social activist Narayan Chandra Jena had written a letter to the Orissa High Court on May 1 seeking judicial intervention for ensuring that coronavirus-infected migrant workers are not allowed to enter the state by the state government. The letter was later converted into a PIL on May 4.

Following the high court's order, three trains, which were to bring stranded people to Odisha from Surat in Gujarat, were cancelled on Thursday.

first published:May 08, 2020, 18:11 IST
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