Gut-wrenching observation by a Madras High Court judge on the plight of poor migrant workers across India during the nationwide lockdown has prompted many to target the Supreme Court, which last week refused to entertain a public interest litigation on the matter. This was after a Madras High Court judge said that ‘one cannot control his/her tears after seeing the pathetic condition of migrant labourers shown in the media for the past one month.’ Many were quick to draw a parallel between the haste shown by the Supreme Court to provide relief to Republic TV founder Arnab Goswami and the top court’s refusal to hear a petition on the woes of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, currently stranded across the country. This was days after FIR actress Kavita Kaushik and Saif Ali Khan’s co-star Kubbra Sait slammed Goswami for shenanigans.
The tragic death of 24 migrant workers in Uttar Pradesh’s Auraiya on Saturday and the scathing observation of the Madras High Court on the plight of migrant workers brought more prominence to the topic of the Supreme Court’s perceived double-standard on social media.
According to news agency PTI, a Madras High Court Bench comprising Justices N Kirubakaran and R Hemalatha observed that the migrant workers and agricultural workforce were a neglected lot in the COVID-19 crisis. It asked the Central and state governments to file a report on such workers by 22 May.
The bench said, “One cannot control his/her tears after seeing the pathetic condition of migrant labourers shown in the media for the past one month. It is nothing but a human tragedy….”
In contrast, the Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, SK Kaul and B R Gavai had refused to entertain a plea, which sought directions that District Magistrates identify, shelter, feed and provide free transport to stranded migrant workers or those on the move. The Bench, according to Indian Express, had wondered how the court could stop migrants from walking. Justice Kaul, in particular, had asked, “How can anybody stop this when they sleep on railway tracks?” Justice Rao, for his part, had said, “There are people walking and not stopping. How can we stop it?”
Many took to Twitter to criticise the Supreme Court for its incredible haste shown in providing relief to controversial TV anchor Arnab Goswami after multiple FIRs were filed against him for inciting communal tension in the country. Not only did the top court entertain Goswami’s plea out of turn, but it had also wasted no time in providing the Republic TV founder a three-week relief from arrest.
Noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan had written on Twitter, “The lightning speed with which Arnab Goswami’s petition was listed and heard by the SC, in contrast to other really urgent cases of migrant workers. Is there a method to this madness? Are there any rules, norms, systems really in place for urgent hearing?”
Now Twitterati are raising similar questions in light of the Supreme Court’s refusal to entertain a plea on migrant workers.
— AQib عاقب (@bhatt_aaqib) May 15, 2020
The people of india, are losing faith in the Supreme Court, because of its foolish judgements.
SC can hear the petition of Arnab Goswami, but the very same SC can’t hear the petition related to J&K.
Because the J&K petitioner don’t have support of the Modi Government. Shame!
— Sunil Bishnoi (@SM_Bishnoi) May 16, 2020
The Supreme Court of Injustice.
— Sudeep Chakravarti (@chakraview) May 15, 2020
Supreme Court will only provide relief to poor Arnab as and when required..
— Deshbhakt (@Bhartiyanagrika) May 16, 2020
supreme court can’t do anything for migrant labour but will give protection for Arnab Goswami. Wow . Thanks supreme court for showing your true colours .
— Surya (@Surya01417889) May 15, 2020
The Supreme Court also heard a second plea filed by Goswami in another FIR accusing him of promoting religious hatred in the country through his TV coverage of the impromptu gathering of migrant workers in Bandra in Mumbai. The top court had reserved its verdict on Goswami’s second plea but extended the Republic TV founder’s three-week protection, which ended on 14 May.