Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and Madhav J. Jamdar, JJ., while addressing a petition expressed that,

It is disheartening situation for us when we the fortunates are eagerly awaiting as the festive season is approaching and the festival of lights would spread joy and happiness in the society throughout the State or the whole nation, here are the few petitioners who are the members of the marginalised section in general and tribals in particular who have approached this Court on a grievance that they are deprived of the basic requirement of human life, i.e., food, only on account that the State machinery is not technically equipped to give them the benefits flowing from the scheme formulated and floated by the Union of India and to be implemented and executed by the respective States.

 Reason for the deprival of food grain to the petitioners was that:

  • their Aadhaar Card was not linked with the system and
  • Government circular dated 13-10-2016 for receiving the benefits of the public distribution system, it is a prerequisite that Aadhaar card of each member of the family who is enlisted in the ration card must have been linked in the RCMS System/portal.

Factual Background

Petitioners in the present matter are residents of the tribal area.

Union of India had formulated a scheme, namely, the National Food Security Act, 2013 with a laudable object as it is stated in the Act to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Section 3 of the said Act deals with the provisions for food security.

On the basis of the above-stated Act, the State of Maharashtra issued a Government Resolution under the caption “Furnishing of District-wise Updated Target and Action to be taken therefor under the National Food Security Act, 2013”.

Clause (5) of the notification further makes it very clear that notwithstanding anything in above paragraphs, any member of eligible household listed in the Ration Card shall be entitled to receive the entire quantity of entitled subsidised food grains or Cash Transfer of Food Subsidy under NFSA, if any one member of the household in the Ration Card fulfils the identification conditions mentioned in above clauses, in case Aadhaar number is not yet assigned to all such members of the household.

Analysis and Decision

Court noted that 85 people approached the Tahsildar raising the grievance of non-receiving the foodgrains under the public distribution system.

This Court had requested the AGP to seek instructions and it was submitted that the reason for non-distribution of foodgrains to some persons was that their Aadhaar Card was linked to a different place than the residence of the said persons. The practice being followed for linking of Aadhaar card is the ration-card holder goes to the ration shop and requests the shop owner to link his ration card or Aadhaar card in the system. Petitioners in the instant matter are tribal person and majority of them are not literate as such they rely on the action taken by the respective ration shop owner and in such case if a mistake was committed by shop owner, the same cannot be the reason for denial of food grains to the ration cardholder under the benevolent schemes.

The policy under the National Food Security Act refers to the Aadhaar Card as one of the modes for identifying the person and further the notification dated 8th February 2017 makes the position very clear in clause 5.

Bench stated that it is unable to find any logic, reason or rationale for denying the benefits of distribution of foodgrains to the petitioners and alike persons raising certain technical ground by the respondent authorities, hence by way of interim direction Court directed respondents 1, 2 and 3 to distribute the foodgrains to the petitioners and similarly circumstanced persons – the tribal beneficiaries under the PDS as well as the provisions of the National Food Security Act and the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.

High Court concluded stating that the respondents are at liberty to verify the ration cards of the petitioners and the similarly circumstanced tribal persons. Foodgrains to be distributed to the tribal persons before 4-11-2021 and respondent 3 to implement, supervise the distribution.

Matter to be further considered on 1-12-2021. [Ganpat Dharma Mengal v. Tehsildar Office, WP No. 7174 of 2021, decided on 29-10-2021]

Advocates before the Court:

Kranti L.C. i/b Kaustubh Gidh and Dipika Shani for the Petitioner.

Mrs. A. S. Purav, AGP for the Respondent-State.

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