| TNN | Updated: May 19, 2020, 17:16 IST

NAINITAL: The Uttarakhand high court (HC) on Monday held that both the state and the central governments are obligated to bring back the migrants to Uttarakhand because their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution may be violated if they are left stranded.

The division bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma held that the obligations of the state and Centre to bring back the migrant labourers can be traced to Article 21 since it relates to their life and livelihood. “As the fundamental rights of these persons, under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, may possibly be violated if they are not brought back to the state immediately, and provided the much-needed food and shelter, both the central and the state governments are obligated to forthwith bring back these persons to the state of Uttarakhand,” the bench said in its order.

Speaking to TOI, SK Mandal, the counsel appearing for petitioner Preetam Singh, said the HC’s decision holding the rights of migrants to return as the fundamental right under Article 21 is a landmark. “I don’t think any high court in India, till now, has linked the migrant crisis in the country to the fundamental rights. The fundamental rights are guaranteed and enforceable rights. Therefore, the decision by the HC to obligate the Centre and state to bring these people who have been stranded across the country without wages is a guarantee that they will surely be brought back and the government cannot use any excuse against it,” Mandal said.

Mandal had argued that though the Uttarakhand government has started the process to bring the stranded people back to the state but only 1,500 people are being brought daily on an average.

“Till now over 2.2 lakh people have registered with the government. If we work at this pace, it would take over six months for the government to bring all the willing people back,” he said, adding that most of the people have lost their livelihoods and the delay may possibly result in starvation deaths whose number would be higher than the deaths from coronavirus.

The bench has also directed the Union government to file a report detailing the number of trains they have arranged to bring back stranded people and the time within which they would ply. The court further said that since these trains terminate at Dehradun, HaridwarUdham Singh Nagar and Nainital districts, the state government should provide details about the number of buses deployed to take them to their residences and the arrangements of their stay as well as home quarantine, food and shelter.
The HC has given the state and the centre time till Thursday to file their responses when the case will be heard.

Meanwhile, the same bench while hearing another PIL challenging the decision to categorise Haridwar in the red zone and Dehradun in orange despite the latter reporting more Covid cases has directed the state government to explain the rationale once the new categorization is released. The case will now be heard on Thursday.