The centre Friday strongly opposed the petitions filed by activists for payment of wages to migrant workers who have been left without work due to the 21-day nationwide lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic and said till the country comes out of this unprecedented tragedy, such “professional PIL shops” must be locked down.
Preparing Public Interest Litigations (PILs) without any ground-level information or knowledge while sitting in an air-conditioned office is not “public service” entitling any of them (activists) to argue public interest litigations particularly in the present global crisis, the government said.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta, which took PILs filed by activists Harsh Mander, Anjali Bhardwaj and Swami Agnivesh on the issue of plight of migrant workers for hearing through video conferencing, was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the government has done an exemplary work in containing the spread of COVID-19 to the minimum number possible.
The bench, which sought response from the centre on the PILs, was told by Mr Mehta that the government has taken several pro-active and timely steps at various levels to mitigate the problems faced by the citizens.
Vehemently opposing the PILs, Tushar Mehta pointed out that the country is going through unprecedented crisis of fighting an unknown deadly virus and all officers are working day and night through several control rooms.
He said none of the petitioners have even bothered to serve the poor and needy or the persons suffering from the virus and, therefore, can never be treated as “public spirited citizens”.
He said that till the country and the world comes out of this unprecedented tragedy such “professional PIL shops” must be locked down as none of them have any concern about the poor and needy or thousands of patients fighting this deadly disease.
Mr Mehta asserted that genuine NGOs and bona fide public spirited citizens are tirelessly working at a grass-root level with government officials and helping the needy as also assisting the patients and doctors in whichever way they can.
Filing of PILs in the midst of the government’s fight with this deadly disease is proving to be detrimental in the entire country, he added.
He said he has been approached by many Advocate Generals of the States sharing their anxiety that the government officers who are working day and night are losing their precious working hours in these trying times by sitting in lawyers’ chambers and preparing replies to frivolous PILs.
He emphasised that officers should better be left to discharge their duties and expressed the hope that all constitutional courts in the country would be circumspect in entertaining such petitions in these unprecedented circumstances so as not to create any hindrance in the efforts of the state governments which are working on a war footing.