Refusing to direct the government to provide shelter or free transportation to migrant workers, the Supreme Court on Friday said that it was impossible for anyone to stop them from walking back to their homes.
"How do you stop people who want to keep walking? Can anyone go and stop them? Impossible for anyone to stop them," bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Sanjay Kaul and BR Gavai said.
The court also denied to entertain the plea after the Centre claimed that arrangements have been made for the migrants to return back to their homes, "but some don't want to wait and start walking on foot."
"Migrants must have patience to wait for their turn," Solicitor General Tushar Meha told the bench.
Mehta also said that authorities can only urge people not to start walking on foot as using any force to stop them would be counter-productive.
The petitioner, lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava, also pointed at the issue of 16 migrant workers crushed to death after being run over by a goods train in Aurangabad last week, to which the court said: "How can anyone stop this when they sleep on railway tracks?"
As many as 16 migrant workers were run over by a goods train last Friday when they decided to sleep on the railway tracks after walking for 45 kms.
The bench observed that it is not possible for the court to monitor who is walking and who is not walking, adding that the petition was "totally based" on newspaper clippings.
"Every advocate read incidents in the paper and become knowledgeable about every subject. Your knowledge is totally based on newspaper clippings and then you want this court to decide. Let the state decide. Why should this court decide or hear? We will give you special pass. Can you go and implement government orders?" the court observed, dismissing the petition.
The petitioner had urged the court to order all district magistrate to identify those migrant workers, labourers who have been stranded and ensure shelter, food and free transport for them.
Migrant labourers have been walking back to their homes since the lockdown was announced in March. The Centre has been criticised for neglecting their plight.
After much criticism, the government started running special Shramik trains earlier this month to move them back to their homes and claims that over a million have been sent back so far.
However several activist have claimed that many workers are still trying to get home on foot because registration for the transport is difficult.