A division bench comprising Justice MM Sundresh and Justice R Hemalatha said this after conceding to the submissions made in a couple of public interest litigations that migrant labourers were not treated well and benefits assured not reaching them due to the failure to enumerate them.
Noting that the immediate requirement was to properly register them, including by the industries that have not done it so far, the bench said: “Until and unless the registration is done under the Act, there will not be any recognition of such employees. Secondly, it has to be seen that those registered are complying with the provisions of the Act. Even here, we find that the compliance is very tardy, starting from the filing of annual returns, etc.”
The bench led by Justice Sundresh called upon either the Advocate General or Additional Advocate General to assist the court on both issues.
The employers, who derive benefit from such workers, could not ignore the duty enjoined on them, the bench said, and asked the AG whether the GO relating to standard operating procedure for bringing guest workers to Tamil Nadu can be extended to those industries that were not registered.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate A Yogeshwaran submitted that the provisions of the Interstate Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, was exhaustive with respect to registration and mandatory compliance by the contractor. But registrations were few and no action was taken for non-compliance. “Resultantly, lakhs of migrant labourers were employed by contractors sans registration, paving way for avoiding the rigour of the provisions contained in the Act and other social welfare enactments,” the counsel said. The petition also sought the State to place on record all the registered contractors and the annual returns they filed. Yogeshwaran pointed out that the 1992 enactment provided benefits for migrant workers and mandated a contribution on the part of the employer/contractor. But it has not been done, he said, seeking for a comprehensive order to protect the returning migrant workers.
The plea has been posted for further hearing to September 21.