New Delhi: Observing that “panic will destroy more lives than the virus”, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to provide counselling to migrants, who have hit the roads to return to their native villages amid the coronavirus lockdown, and rope in community leaders of all faiths to calm them down.
The Supreme Court also asked the Centre to set up a portal within 24 hours for the dissemination of real-time information on the coronavirus pandemic to counter the panic being spread through fake news.
Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, who is hearing the matter via video conference, told the Centre to ensure that migrants moved to shelter homes were provided food, nourishment, and medical aid. He also directed that authorities should also follow up on those already identified and quarantined.
“We are considering providing counselling to address the panic. Over 22.8 lakh people are being provided with food. These are needy persons, migrants, and daily wagers. They have been kept in shelters,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said.
The CJI also asked the Centre to not use force against the migrants. “Let volunteers manage the shelters, not the police. There should be no use of force or intimidation,” CJI Bobde said.
The SC bench, also comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao, is hearing two separate PILs filed by advocates Alakh Alok Srivastava and Rashmi Bansal on the exodus of migrants. On Monday, the SC observed that the migration of labourers out of panic and fear was becoming a bigger problem than the coronavirus and asked the Centre to submit a status report.
Stating that the lockdown was absolutely necessary, Mehta said the Centre had taken pre-emptive and proactive steps to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“We have so far been able to contain the spread of the virus much to our satisfaction. Started thermal screening of people returning from abroad even before any case was detected in India,” he told the top court.
The top court, which refused to restrain the High Courts from taking up the issue of migrants, said they may monitor the issue more closely.
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