Observing that the fundamental right to life of the needy and the poor needs to be protected, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has ordered the authorities to conduct a survey of such persons so that they could be given free food kits. For this, the HC has asked the authorities to call on their government employees, who are presently off duty.
A bench of Justice Madhav Jamdar has ordered the authorities to complete the survey within three days so that those in need could be provided with food kits quickly. It has also asked the authorities to maintain a record of those already given food kits, as it would help in identifying persons who could hoard ration.
The bench was dealing with a petition filed by activist Sanjay Dharmadhikari, who works with the Akhil Bhartiya Grahak Panchayat. The plea sought directives to the authorities to supply foodgrains in equal quantity, as supplied to ration card holders, to the persons not holding ration cards and those who are having lapsed ration cards.
During the course of the hearing, Justice Jamdar noted that, as per a government resolution of March 29, 2020, certain amount of foodgrains shall be provided to the needy and poor (including migrants and displaced workers) free of cost even if they do not hold ration cards. The bench further noted that despite all the norms in place, there was a requirement for giving wide publicity to these rules, which could be helpful for them.
"The factual position shows that, since the last few days, lakhs of migrants have been travelling to their native places by any mode of transport. If the same is not available, they have resorted to walk the distance of more than 500kms, 1,000kms or 2,000 kms, which clearly shows that foodgrain has not been supplied to the needy in various parts of Maharashtra. Therefore, they have no alternative but to go to their native place," Justice Jamdar observed.
"Thus, I think directions must be issued to protect the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India of such persons, who are from the lower strata of the society and who need foodgrains for their survival," Justice Jamdar added.
The bench, accordingly, ordered the authorities to carry out an immediate survey of the persons to whom the foodgrains are to be supplied. "For this purpose, if required, a number of staff members, who are not reporting to their duties in view of the guidelines issued in the lockdown period, be also called for the survey, which would be on a larger scale, within a period of three days," Justice Jamdar ordered.
The bench further clarified that as soon as such persons are identified, they must be given the food kits free of cost.