Friday, August 6, 2010

We cannot govern the country sitting in SC: CJI

There is no mistaking the change of approach of the Supreme Court under the new CJI S H Kapadia, who on Friday declared that judges sitting in the apex court could not substitute the executive nor could they continue monitoring the latter's work.

"We are not going to govern the country from here," said the CJI heading a Bench also comprising Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar. It expressed its reservation in entertaining PILs highlighting problems faced by citizens, which is primarily the job of the executive to address.

It disposed of PILs that had been pending in the Supreme Court for years -- one relating to the pitiable condition of thousands of workers of tea gardens which have either been abandoned or closed by owners and the other on the capping of borewells which had become death traps for small children across the country.

On the PIL relating to tea garden workers, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves narrated how the apex court in the last four years had made repeated attempts to ameliorate their conditions and even mooted the idea of engaging them in NREGA work taking into account the fact that several of them were staring at death due to starvation.

The PIL had alleged that they were facing starvation as for the last 10 years they had been denied wages and also their PF and gratuity dues. It had also alleged that the Centre's Rs 4,000-crore revival package has enriched the owners and not benefited the workers whose dues total a meagre Rs 300 crore. There were around 55 sick tea gardens of which 30 were in Assam and 14 in West Bengal.

The Bench took note of it and said "no steps have been taken under the provisions of Tea Act, 1953" to help payment of dues to workers living in pitiable conditions in abandoned or sick tea estates.

"Though several rounds of discussions have been held by the petitioner with the government the outcome is zero," the Bench said and asked the government to take steps within six months to give the workers their dues.

Similarly, it did not want to monitor the implementation of the apex court's February 11 order by which it had warned the chief secretaries of the states that they would be answerable to it for failure to implement the guidelines to cap within three months all abandoned open borewells, which in the past had been death traps for children.

The Bench said since the guidelines were in place, there was no need for the apex court to keep monitoring its implementation and disposed of the PIL.

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