SC says cannot direct Centre to pay minimum wages to migrant workers

New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would not get into the financial domain of the Centre by issuing a direction to pay minimum wages to migrant workers during the lockdown on PILs filed by activists Harsh Mander and Swami Agnivesh and others.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, S K Kaul and B R Gavai observed that it would not be possible for the courts to direct the Centre to give money to the state governments for these purposes. Another PIL urged the top court to pass directions to pay minimum wages to the self-employed workers like rickshaw pullers, auto-drivers, etc.

The top court queried the petitioners, that is it an expert on these matters? There are governments to govern, and the court should not get into issues of financial support. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the activists, cited a study where 90 per cent of the 11,000 migrant workers said many of them are not getting food and the government is providing Rs 500 per month to women Jan Dhan account holders, which is hardly enough. The court replied who knows the task better than the government.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta rubbished Bhushan's arguments that migrant workers are not getting food. “Who told him that no one is getting food? There are direct benefit transfer schemes” contended Mehta. He added that helpline numbers are functional and anybody who is unable to get food could reach the authorities concerned on these helplines.

Bhushan insisted on minimum wage payment to migrant workers during the lockdown period. He contended that many workers have not been paid by their employers.

The court noted that it is an unusual situation. “Some may say something is working well, some may say something is not working well. But everyone is trying to do their best”, observed the court. The top court disposed off the petition saying the material brought on record can be considered as a representation by the Centre while developing relief measures for the migrant workers.



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