States, Railways final judge on ticket fare for stranded workers, says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to intervene in a plea alleging that stranded migrant workers journeying home amid COVID-19 lockdown are charged 15% of their rail ticket fare.

A three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan on Tuesday said it is not for the apex court but the State governments concerned and the Railways to take necessary steps under the relevant guidelines.

The Centre was responding to arguments made by advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for a former IIM(A) faculty member Jagdeep S. Chhokar, and lawyer Gaurav Jain, that even the 15% of fare was too high a burden for the workers. Mr. Bhushan said the government should transport them free of cost.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, submitted that the State governments and the Railways have to take appropriate steps about the ticket fare. The four-page court order then goes on to rather vaguely record Mr. Mehta saying “at this moment, no such statement can be made as to what amount is being taken from the migrant workers”.

Nevertheless, the court heartily agreed with Mr. Mehta that necessary steps were indeed taken to care for the thousands of migrants and their families, mostly poor labourers wanting to return to their native villages to escape starvation and homelessness in the big cities.

The court, under the context, found no reason at all to step in.

Full coverage: Lockdown displaces lakhs of migrants

“The order of May 1 by the Ministry of Railways has been placed before us where the Railways has decided to run Shramik Special trains to move migrant workers, tourists, students and other persons stranded at different places due to lockdown. Necessary modalities for such transportation has to be implemented by the States/Union Territories in collaboration with the Railways. Insofar as charging of 15% of railway tickets’ amount from workers, it is not for this court to issue any order under Article 32 regarding the same, it is the State/Railways to take necessary steps under the relevant guidelines,” the court observed.

The Bench noted that the petition had wanted a direction to the government to allow migrant workers to return to their native villages.

The court said the government has already taken steps by issuing an order on April 29 allowing the movement of migrants and directing States/Union Territories to designate nodal authorities and develop standard protocols for receiving and sending such stranded persons. The court disposed of the petition, saying there was nothing more for it to do in this issue.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 8:57:45 AM |

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