Bangladeshi immigrants, Karnataka High Court
Bangladeshi immigrants, Karnataka High Court
Litigation News

COVID-19 not an excuse for failure to frame rehabilitation scheme: Karnataka HC on eviction of "Bangladeshi" migrant workers

The Court also forewarned that if the State does not come up with a rehabilitation scheme by the next date of hearing, it would be forced to initiate contempt proceedings.

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Karnataka High Court today pulled up the state government for not framing a comprehensive rehabilitation scheme for evicted migrant workers, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be used as an excuse for failure to do so.

The Court made this observation while dealing with a petition challenging the recent forceful eviction of thousands of migrant workers near Marathahalli in Bangalore, on the pretext that they were illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Ashok S Kinagi opined,

"As of February 26, the excuse of COVID-19 was not available to the state government.....However, as of today, the State has not come out with any scheme for rehabilitation. Large number of poor people belonging to the marginalized sections of the society was deprived of their shelter thereby violating their Rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India."

Karnataka High Court

Today, the state government informed the Court that it was unable to formulate a scheme for the evicted migrants on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the State sought more time to come up with a scheme.

Unable to concur with the State's submission, the Court opined,

"COVID-19 is not an excuse for everything and anything."

The Bench also made it clear that in normal course, it would have certainly slapped contempt charges on the authorities. However, the Bench finally decided to grant the State a final opportunity to come up with a scheme. Highlighting this, the order reads,

"In normal course, today, the Court would have been justified in issuing notice of contempt to the Principal Secretary of the Revenue department. However, with a view to give one more chance to state government to comply with the order, direct the petition to be listed on September 24.”

The Court also forewarned that if the State does not come up with a rehabilitation scheme by the next date of hearing, it would be forced to initiate contempt proceedings.

In its order, the Bench also noted that around 351 evicted persons had already made claims with regard to rehabilitation and compensation. It observed,

"People were dispossessed of their homes....BBMP said that it has not done it, State said that it has not done it, then this must be the work of certain anti social elements."

The matter will be next heard on September 24.

In February, the Karnataka High Court had directed the state government to come up with a comprehensive scheme to rehabilitate the "Bangladeshi" migrant workers who were forcefully evicted from their homes in Bangalore earlier this year.

In January, the Karnataka High Court had passed an interim stay on the demolition drive purportedly conducted by civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Bengaluru Police.

The BBMP had reportedly undertaken the demolition drive after receiving information about "illegal Bangladeshi immigrants" living around Bengaluru's Bellandur area.

It was later discovered that these workers were in fact migrant labourers from different parts of India.

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