The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Maharashtra government to take a decision on whether it would bear transport costs of migrant workers returning to their home states amid lockdown for coronavirus.
The court also suggested that the government should publicise the decision so that migrant workers learn about it.
Justice SC Gupte was hearing three Public Interest Litigations filed by non-government organisations seeking that the state bear the cost of medical screening and transport expenses of migrant labourers.
The PILs filed through lawyers Gayatri Singh, Kranti LC and Ronita Bector also said that the state must provide necessary relief to migrant workers, slum dwellers and homeless persons in the state amid the lockdown.
The court's suggestion came after it was informed that the state government had decided to bear the expenses of medical screening of migrants who wished to return to their home states.
On May 5, Justice Gupte had directed the government to file a reply clarifying its stand on bearing travel expenses and cost of medical screening.
On Friday, advocate BP Samant, the government's lawyer, told the HC that on May 7, the Maharashtra government modified its earlier orders under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, regarding transportation of migrant workers and provided for free of cost medical screening.
"The state submitted that screenings will be done either by medical officers of the government or municipal corporations, and also by registered medical professionals hired by municipal corporations," said advocate Bector.
Each passenger (traveling on special trains provided for migrant workers) will not need an individual medical certificate but instead there will be a common passenger information on who were successfully screened before beginning their rail journey, the state government said.
On the issue of transport expenses, Justice Gupte referred to the Supreme Court''s May 5 order which noted that the railways would subsidize 85 percent of the fare and the states can take a decision on the balance cost.
The Maharashtra government could take a decision accordingly, the high court said while disposing of the matter.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh confirmed the position of the Central government on rail fare subsidy.
The petitioners in the case are Sarva Hara Jan Andolan and Angmehnati Kashtakari Sangharsh Samiti. NGOs Movement for Peace and Justice Welfare and Shramik Mukti Sangathan have filed pleas seeking relief in terms of food and sanitation.