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Migrants’ train travel: Supreme Court refuses plea on Centre bearing costs

Supreme Court said the court’s sole concern was that stranded migrant workers should not end up paying for their tickets.

Supreme Court said the court’s sole concern was that stranded migrant workers should not end up paying for their tickets.  

Court’s sole concern is that they should not end up paying for their tickets, says bENCH

The Supreme Court on Friday refused a plea to “clarify” that the Centre should bear 85% of the train travel costs of migrant workers and not leave it to cash-strapped States to foot the bill amid the pandemic.

A three-judge Bench led by Ashok Bhushan said the court’s sole concern was that stranded migrant workers should not end up paying for their tickets.

“Our concern here was only that migrant workers should not pay. Whether the Centre pays or the States pay is not the issue”, Justices Bhushan and Justice M.R. Shah told senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan.

Mr. Sankaranarayanan, appearing for National Law University alumni, who have been aiding migrant workers travel to their native villages, submitted that “the Centre should clarify that it will take 85% of the costs”.

In virtual court hearing, he said. “States do not have the requisite funds. State of Kerala had pointed out in the last hearing that Centre and Railways should bear the burden and the State does not have the funds”.

Justice Bhushan reacted, “But we had not agreed to it.”

The issue dates back to May 4, when it was announced that the railways would subsidise 85% of the ticket fare of migrant workers travelling home on special trains during the lockdown. However, the very next day, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, during the hearing of a PIL petition, refrained from making any commitment in the Supreme Court on whether the Centre would actually “fund” 85% of the migrant workers’ train fare. Instead, Mr. Mehta put the responsibility squarely on the States and the railways “to take appropriate steps about the ticket fare”.

On May 28, the apex court ordered that the departure and destination States of a migrant worker’s journey should pool his travel expenses. The court did not mention the Centre's role. Following this, on June 9, in a suo motu case on the migrant workers’ crisis, the court ordered the States to complete their transportation within 15 days.

‘No information’

But on Friday, the court realised that the transportation of workers was far from complete. Senior advocate Indira Jaising said there was complete lack of dissemination of information. Workers waiting for their trains have been given no assurance that trains would be made available for them free of cost.

“Nothing is being done. There are no advertisements published in vernacular languages. There is no attempt made to publicise of the court’s order”, she said.

Mr. Sankaranarayanan submitted that migrant workers were still waiting for their trains at railways stations.

Mr. Mehta intervened to say that the Centre had immediately informed the State governments about the June 9 top court order. It had asked the States about the number of trains required for transporting migrants.

The court noted that its June 9 order actually meant that all migrant workers should reach home in 15 days, and asked the Centre and the States to ensure compliance and file their reports in July.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 2:37:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/migrants-train-travel-supreme-court-refuses-plea-on-centre-bearing-costs/article31870761.ece

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