Advocates wearing protective masks as a precautionary measure amid rising coronavirus cases a week before the lockdown began.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Advocates wearing protective masks as a precautionary measure amid rising coronavirus cases a week before the lockdown began.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

SC seeks Centre’s reply on minimum wage to migrants

The petition filed by activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj pointed out that migrant workers are unable to work and earn wages during the 21-day nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 04, 2020 06:20 AM IST

The Supreme Court on Friday sought the response of the Central government in a plea seeking to ensure payment of minimum wage to all migrant workers within a week, whether employed by establishments or contractors or self-employed.

The petition filed by activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj pointed out that migrant workers are unable to work and earn wages during the 21-day nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta posted the case for next hearing on April 7.

The petitioners submitted that the lockdown order issued March 24, for which no prior intimation was given, created a panic across the country and led to instantaneous loss of jobs and wages of millions of migrant workers employed in establishments and households across India or self-employed as street vendors, rickshaw pullers, petty job workers, etc.

“The (lockdown) order ignores the harsh realities that workers have to persistently face in cities further compounded when a lockdown order deprives them of their job, daily wages and hence means of survival, thus violating their Article 21 (right to life) rights,” the petition stated.

PETITION SEEKING FREE COVID 19 TESTING

The SC asked the Centre for its response a petition praying that Covid-19 test should be provided free of cost to all citizens at all private and government-run testing laboratories.

At present, private laboratories are allowed to charge people to test for Coronavirus, though its price is capped at Rs 4,500.

“It is urgently required that the respondents have to provide free of cost testing for covid-19 to all citizens”, the petition stated.

The petitioner, advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, submitted that government hospitals are packed to capacity and it has become difficult for the common man to get himself/herself tested in government-run labs. With no alternative in sight, they are forced to pay money to get the tests done at private labs, the petition stated. Saddling ordinary citizens with such financial burden effectively deprives them of their accessibility to medical facilities and is violative of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, the petitioner submitted.

Sudhi also pointed out that there are only 114 identified testing centers for Covid-19 in a country with a population of 1.3 billion people. Due to this, he claimed that adequate testing was not happening making the situation dangerous with each passing day.

He, therefore, prayed that testing facilities should be ramped up so as to ensure that adequate tests are done and all Covid-19 tests must be conducted by pathological laboratories accredited with National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).

SC WANTS STRICT ACTION ON PRICE GOUGING OF MASKS AND SANITISERS

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Central government to publicise measures taken by it to deal with price gouging of masks and hand sanitisers.

A bench told the government to take strict action against those flouting the price control notification issued by the authorities concerned. The court disposed of the case after the government told the SC on Friday that it would publicise helpline numbers for customers to reach out if they come across any violation of the price control notification.

The plea by NGO Justice for Rights Foundation claimed there was a rise in demand for masks and sanitisers and, consequently, chemists and medical shops were selling them at a price much higher than the maximum retail price (MRP) and the price prescribed by the government. The petitioner alleged that chemists and medical outlets, in an attempt to defraud and profit from the coronavirus outbreak, were striking out the MRP and applying their own price labels.

To address this, the government had come out with notifications and orders declaring face masks and hand sanitizers as essential commodities and capping their prices. “The Department of Consumer Affairs, in wake of the need and urgency of the present condition, published a notification dated 21 March 2020, fixing the prices of the mask i.e. 2 ply masks to be priced at 8 and 3 ply masks to priced at 10 and that the sanitiser bottle of 200 ml to be sold at a price of 100,” the petition pointed out.

The petitioner claimed that despite the notification, medical outlets were selling masks and sanitisers at higher prices.

KERALA -KARNATAKA BORDER: SC BATS FOR AMICABLE RESOLUTION

The SC issued notice to the Central and Kerala governments in an appeal filed by state of Karnataka challenging an April 1 order of Kerala High Court directing the Central government to remove the road blockades erected by Karnataka on the Kerala-Karnataka border.

The top court did not stay the Kerala HC order, but asked the chief secretaries of both states and the Union health secretary to hold a meeting to arrive at a solution so as to ensure movement of vehicles in case of medical emergencies.

The case will be heard next on April 7.

In a bid to tackle coronavirus spread, the Karnataka government had blocked the roads including the National Highway 66 connecting the state with Kerala’s northern districts. It had erected mud mounds on the roads, thereby, preventing all vehicular traffic between the two states.

Kerala, with 286 Covid cases, has third highest number of cases in the country after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Out of these, 129 cases are from state’s northern most district of Kasaragod, which shares its border with Karnataka.

The Kerala High Court Advocates Association had approached the HC against the blockade. The HC had, on April 1, noted the national highway network comes under the Central government and had told the Centre to remove the blockades.

“We, therefore, direct the Central government to forthwith intervene in the matter and ensure that the blockades erected by the State of Karnataka, on the National Highways connecting the said State to the State of Kerala, are removed forthwith, and without any further delay, so as to facilitate the free movement of vehicles carrying persons for urgent medical treatment, across the border between the two States”, the HC had directed.

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