The Supreme Court Friday stayed an interim order of the Orissa High Court which directed the state government to “ensure that all the migrants who are in queue to come to Odisha should be tested negative for COVID-19 before boarding the conveyance”.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and B R Gavai stayed the order and issued notice on a Special Leave Petition filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs after hearing Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who outlined the precautionary measures being taken for travel of migrants. Mehta also contended that the Centre was not heard in the matter.
“We are of the view that the order of the Government of India dated 29.04.2020 provides ample protection. It appears that before the High
Court, the order of the Government of India dated 29.04.2020 and the guidelines were neither brought into notice nor were under challenge.
In view of the aforesaid, we stay the interim order dated 07.05.2020,” the bench ordered.
It said “we further clarify that the stranded migrants shall be dealt with as per the order/guidelines of the Government of India dated 29.04.2020 read with the guidelines dated 01.05.2020 issued thereunder by the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs”.
Mehta said that under these orders and rules, “the nodal authorities in the States are to first compile a register of the stranded persons within their States who are originally from other States. After the
said list of stranded persons is compiled, the sending and receiving States may consult each other and mutually agree to movement by road.
Before the person who is moving boards the vehicle or the train, as the case may be, the said person would screened and only those who are found asymptomatic (even after 40 days of “lockdown” restrictions) would be allowed to proceed. The vehicle or the trains, as the case
may be, are duly sanitized. On the arrival of such groups at their destination, such person(s) would be assessed by the local health authorities, and kept in home quarantine, unless the assessment
requires keeping the person(s) in institutional quarantine”.
He said the precautions “are in line with the strategy for COVID-19 testing in India, as issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research”.
Mehta contended that the Orissa High Court order “apart from being unworkable, fails to notice the standard operating procedure already being followed by the central government and the state governments”.
The HC order, he said, “further ignores the nature of the present pandemic… and the delicate handling of the situation by the Executive, after consideration of all possible factors”.
Mehta said it also impinges on the domain of the Executive and “creates an unreasonable and impossible to perform pre-condition on
part of the governments and the migrant workers who wish to travel back to their native places”.
The pandemic, the MHA said, was an issue concerning not just one state but all since “migrants from various other states would also be
returning” and the High Court “order may have a cascading effect on migrants of other states as well”.
In Bhubaneswar, Odisha Law Minister Pratap Jena told reporters: “We have not received the order… A lot of migrant Odias have registered and many have arrived. We are ready to take care of them; we have 14,000 temporary medical camps and five lakh beds.”
-Inputs from Sampad Patnaik
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