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Supreme Court issues notice on unorganised labour payments

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta opposed the plea filed by activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj, saying that such “PIL shops” must be closed down. “Genuine persons are helping people on the ground. Sitting in AC rooms and filing PILs doesn’t help,” Mehta said.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Apr 03, 2020, 11.49 PM IST
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Supreme Court BCCL
New Delhi:The Supreme Court on Friday overruled the Centre’s objections to taking up a public interest litigation on the plight of unorganised labourers who fled the cities, and issued notice on the plea that the government pay their wages as employers may not be able to do so during the lockdown.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta opposed the plea filed by activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj, saying that such “PIL shops” must be closed down. “Genuine persons are helping people on the ground. Sitting in AC rooms and filing PILs doesn’t help,” Mehta said.

The court though shrugged off the objections, saying that it was “particularly concerned” about the “plight” of migrant workers . The government will have to respond to the petition by April 7, a bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta said.

The petition, argued by lawyer Prashant Bhushan on behalf of Mander, termed the exodus of migrants from cities to the hinterlands as a humanitarian crisis of a huge magnitude, and termed the steps taken to deal with it as inadequate.

Though the government has asked all employers to pay wages to their employees and landlords not to charge them rent for this period, these measures are impractical, the petition claimed.

Small establishments may have shut down or not be able to reach the labourers who have migrated back home, it said, urging the court to direct the government to pay their wages wherever they are in a week’s time, so that they can survive during the lockdown.

“The current lockdown has cast an unprecedented economic hardship on daily wage earners ... the central and state authorities have the power and consequential duty to direct that all daily wage earners be provided with their wages at the place where they are present under the lockdown,” it said.

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