Case BriefsSupreme Court

“To provide food security to impoverished persons is the bounden duty of all States and Governments.”

Supreme Court: The bench of Ashok Bhushan* and MR Shah, JJ has issued extensive directions to ensure the welfare of the migrant labourers who have been severely affected due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both, in the first and the second wave of the pandemic, migrant workers had been exposed to financial and other forms of hardships due to their limited access and claim to the welfare resources offered by the States/Union Territories. The migrant labourers are particularly vulnerable to the economic regression.

The Court, hence, noticed that,

“Our Constitution enjoins that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are for promoting welfare of the people by securing social and economic justice to the weaker section so as to sub-serve the common good to minimize inequalities in income and endeavour to eliminate inequality in status.”

Hence, in order to ensure the unorganised/migrant labourers have access to at-least bare necessities of life, the Court issued the following directions:

(i) Portal for for registration of the unorganized labourers/migrant workers

    • The Central Government to develop the Portal in consultation with National Informatics Centre (NIC) for registration of the unorganized labourers/migrant workers.
    • The Central Government as well as the respective States and the Union Territories to complete the process of Portal for registration under National Data Base for Unorganised Workers (NDUW Project) as well as implement the same, which by all means may commence not later than 31.07.2021.
    • The process of registration of the unorganized labourers/migrant workers is completed at the earliest, but not later than 31.12.2021.
    • All the concerned States/Union Territories and the Licence Holders/Contractors and others to cooperate with the Central Government to complete the process of registration of migrant workers and unorganized labourers so that the benefits of the welfare schemes declared by the Central Government/State Governments/ Union Territories be available to migrant workers and unorganized labourers for whose benefits the welfare schemes are declared.

(ii) The Central Government having undertaken to distribute additional quantity of foodgrains as demanded by the States/Union Territories for distribution to migrant labourers under some Scheme framed by the States, we direct the Central Government, Department of Food and Public Distribution (Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution) to allocate and distribute foodgrains as per demand of additional food-grains from the States for disbursement of dry foodgrains to migran labourers.

(iii) States to bring in place an appropriate scheme for distribution of dry ration to migrant labourers for which it shall be open for States to ask for allocation of additional foodgrains from the Central Government, which, as directed above, shall provide the additional foodgrains to the State. The State shall consider and bring an appropriate Scheme, which may be implemented on or before 31.07.2021. Such scheme may be continued and operated till the current pandemic (Covid-19) continues.

(iv) The States, who have not yet implemented “One Nation One Ration Card” scheme are directed to implement the same by not later than 31.07.2021.

(v) The Central Government may undertake exercise under Section 9 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 to re-determine the total number of persons to be covered under the Rural and Urban areas of the State.

(vi) All the States/Union Territories to register all establishments and license all contractors under the Act, 1979 and ensure that statutory duty imposed on the contractors to give particulars of migrant workers is fully complied with.

(vii) The State/Union Territories are directed to run community kitchens at prominent places where large number of migrant labourers are found for feeding those migrant labourers who does not have sufficient means to procure two meals a day. The running of the community kitchen should be continued at-least till pandemic (Covid-19) continues.

[IN RE: PROBLEMS AND MISERIES OF MIGRANT LABOURERS, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 441, decided on 29.06.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice Ashok Bhushan

Appearances before the Court:

Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General for India, Dushyant Dave and Colin Gonsalves, senior counsel

Gauhati High Court
Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Gauhati High Court: The Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia, CJ. and Manash Ranjan Pathak, J., took up a petition filed in the nature of PIL; concern raised was the present condition of sex workers in Assam who, according to the petitioner in most cases, were on the verge of starvation, considering the strange and difficult times of the present COVID-19 pandemic, which is now in its second wave.

Counsel for the petitioner, Ms D Ghosh submitted before the Court an order passed by the Supreme Court in Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal, Criminal Appeal No. 135 of 2010, dated- 29-09-2020 where certain directions were given regarding relief and aid to be given to sex workers during the present COVID-19 pandemic. The petitioner had moved an impleadment application in compliance of this Court’s order on 27-05-2021 for impleading the Union of India, represented by the Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development as well as National AIDS Control Organization, represented by Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, as respondent.

The court allowed the impleadment application.

Mr R.K.D. Choudhury, Assistant Solicitor General of India was given directions to apprise the Court as to how the National AIDS Control Organization through the Assam State AIDS Control Society will give relief to the sex workers in Assam during the present pandemic, and how will the sex workers be identified. Mr R. Dhar, Senior Government Advocate, Assam was also asked to obtain necessary instructions in the matter.

On the urge of the counsel for the petitioner an interim mandamus was issued directing the Deputy Commissioner, Cachar as well as the Secretary, District Legal Services Authority, Cachar to immediately provide ration to sex workers and their family members in Cachar who were struggling in the current situation.[Debajit Gupta v. State of Assam, 2021 SCC OnLine Gau 1169, decided on 28-05-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah, JJ has directed that a Common National Database for all organised workers situate in different States in the entire country, which may serve registration for extending different schemes by the States and Centre, be created at the earliest so as to ensure that the organised workers are able to reap the benefits of the Government Schemes.

“…for accessing of any benefit percolating from any scheme framed by the Centre or the States for the benefit of unorganized workers or migrant workers, registration of workers is essential, which registration shall facilitate the unorganized workers to assess the scheme and reap the benefit.”

Currently there is no uniform process of registration. There are separate registration of workers under the Building and Other Construction Workers’(Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996. Under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, all States have framed the Rules and some States have also undertaken registration under the aforesaid Acts but no State has given any details as to whether registration under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 is complete.

The Court, however, noticed that the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 now stand repealed by the Code of Social Security Act, 2020 (Act No.36 of 2020 published in the Gazette of India on 29.09.2020). By Section 164 of the Code, several enactments have been repealed including the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 and the Building and other Construction Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996. In Section 112 of the Code of Social Security, 2020, registration of unorganized workers, gig workers and platform workers is contemplated. The Court, hence, asked the Union of India to apprise it on steps which are proposed to be taken n this regard.

The Court also asked the Central Government and the State Government to complete the process of registration of organized workers at an early date so that unorganized workers are able to reap the benefit of different schemes of the Centre and the States, which without proper registration and identity card seems to be difficult to implement on the ground. A detailed affidavit is to be filed within 2 weeks.

Further, there shall be suitable mechanism to monitor and supervise whether the benefits of the welfare schemes reach the beneficiaries which may be from grassroot levels to higher authorities with names & places of beneficiaries so that the purposes for such schemes are floated is achieved.

The Court also asked all the States to file affidavits indicating the mechanism by which the dry ration should be distributed to those migrant workers, who does not possess a ration card.

“Whether the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme of the Union of India, which was implemented for giving dry rations to migrant workers in May and June, 2020 is to be utilized or some other scheme has to be utilized is a matter for States to take a decision but the dry ration has to be distributed to the migrant workers throughout the country by the States.”

The Court, however, directed that migrant workers wherever stranded throughout the country should be provided the dry ration under the Atma Nirbhar Scheme or any other scheme is found suitable by the States/Centre.

Regarding Community Kitchen, the Court noticed that it is the responsibility of the States/Union Territories to provide Community Kitchen to the stranded migrant workers, who have lost their employment and are in need of two meals a day and hence, they should make operational the community kitchen to the stranded migrant workers wherever they may situate in the country.

“There shall be wide publicity with respect to the various schemes including the places of community kitchens so that such needy persons may in fact take benefits.”

Regarding direct cash transfer to unorganised workers, the Court said that

“… cash transfer is a matter of policy and scheme framed by each State/Union Territory and no direction for cash transfer can be issued by this Court to any category of person unless they are covered by any scheme formulated by the State/Union Territory.”

[IN RE : PROBLEMS AND MISERIES OF MIGRANT LABOURERS, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 398, order dated 24.05.2021]

For petitioner: Advocate Prashant Bhushan,

For Union of India: SG Tushar Mehta and ASG Aishwarya Bhati

For States: Maninder Singh for the State of Gujarat, Garima Prashad for the State of U.P., Ranjit Kumar for the State of Bihar, Rahul Chitnis for the State of Maharashtra and Sanjay Kumar Visen for the State of Haryana.

Kerala High Court
Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Kerala High Court:  Division Bench of S. Manikumar, CJ and Saji P. Chaly, J., while addressing a matter wherein plight of transgender community was placed, Court held that,

“…in order to translate the rights into a reality, and to avoid practical difficulties, Court is of the firm opinion that it is for the members of the community, or NGOs and others who are working with the transgender community to identify the problems faced by the members of the community and point out the same to the officers.”

Present Public Interest Litigation was filed by a transgender person.

Issues

Respondents have not undertaken to ensure the distribution of ration, medicines, access to medical treatment etc. to the transgender community in Kerala.

Transgender persons have been discriminated in the matter of relief measures during lockdown.

Petitioners’ case

Petitioner states that she was recognised a transgender person in the State of Kerala and it was issued an identity card by the Social Justice Department.

Petitioner has also sought benefits as laid down in the Supreme Court decision of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438,

all transgender persons have a right to self-determine their gender identity as male, female or transgender and non-recognition of their gender identity violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Transgender policy was evolved for the transgender persons in Kerala during the year 2015.

Petitioner states that, apart from the above mentioned issues, transgender community is being subjected to threats with regard to eviction as they are unable to pay rent.

Authorities have not been extending any financial benefits to the transgender community.

Respondents Contentions

Director of Social Justice contended while refuting the claims of the petitioner that earnest efforts were being made by the State Government to provide the necessary facilities to the public at large including the transgender community.

So far as the general allegations with respect to the failure on the part of the Government to take necessary steps for supplying ration kits and other articles to the members of the community are concerned, it is stated that earnest efforts were made for the supply of the ration, ration kits and other articles, and also for providing shelter for those persons who were in crisis during the period of lock down.

Necessary medicines were provided to all transgender persons who had undergone hormone therapy and arrangements were made through the Transgender Justice Committee and other NGOs.

Civil Supplies Department had provided the facility for transgender community to mark their gender as ‘T’ in the ration card, so that they could also avail the facility to buy ration articles through their ration cards.

It is prominently submitted that the Social Justice Department, the State as well as the District Authority functioning for the transgender community have not received any complaint with respect to non-access to food supply, medicines and threat of eviction. 

Decision of the Bench

Petitioner has not specified ay of the instances whereby the ration articles, ration kit and the ration card was denied to the transgender persons on them approaching appropriate statutory authority.

Wirth regard to rights of the transgender community, Court stated that,

“…when the State Government has taken enough and more steps to provide various facilities and the authorities are appointed for addressing their issues, it is for members of that community or the NGOs or the members representing the transgender community to approach the said authorities and put forth the rights, they are entitled to.”

Court added to its observation that, identification of the transgender community is an issue involving privacy and therefore, unless and until such persons approach the authorities and their identity is so revealed and recognised, the authorities cannot take action for supplying medicines, ration, ration cards and identity cards and that too after thorough medical examination.

“…there are no reasons for denying any basic human right to a member of the transgender community.”

Yet, the Court issued the following directions:

  • Whenever any member of the transgender community approached the statutory authority concerned with medical prescription of the doctor, medicine should be supplied free of cost.
  • When any member of the transgender community approaches the District Authority or Nodal Officer appointed for the purpose of issuing gender identity card and the ration card, necessary steps shall be taken at the earliest to address the issues
  • Any other issues raised by the transgenders in writing shall also be addressed appropriately
  • 5 persons whose names have been mentioned in the statement filed, if approach the District Authority concerned, their issues should be addressed.

With the above observations, Court dismissed the petition.[Kabeer v. State of Kerala, WP(C) No. 9890 of 2020(S), decided on 08-06-2020]

Patna High Court
Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Patna High Court: A Division Bench of Sanjay Karol, CJ and S.Kumar, J., while addressing a petition, directed State Government that all policies framed and instructions issued by Government, shall be implemented in letter and spirit  and no member of transgender community be deprived of Ration only on account of such status or not possessing Ration Card.

Court observed that Government Advocate, Ajay had been taking a proactive role in the matter and has been an Instructing Officer to meet with the difficulties and problems of transgenders.

Government Advocate, Ajay, mentioned that Government of Bihar has taken a decision of distributing food grains to all who are otherwise eligible and entitled to, even if they do not possess the Ration Card. Impliedly, possessing the Ration Card is not a condition precedent for availing the facility of receiving the food grains under various policy and schemes of the Government of Bihar.

Petitioner if face any further difficulty which any transgender may be facing in the State of Bihar may invite the attention of authorities in that case.

Matter to be listed on 22nd June, 2020. [Veera Yadav v. Chief Secy., Government of Bihar, 2020 SCC OnLine Pat 591 , decided on 20-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, JJ., while dealing with the issue of non-provision of ration to e-coupon holders directed GNCTD to ensure that ration to be supplied to the said people by evening of 21-05-2020.

Grievance of the petitioner is that despite e-coupons being issued to residents, they still have not been delivered ration from the Ration Distribution centre for the past one month.

Petitioner’s Counsel K.K. Mishra, Advocate, submitted that respondent-1/ GNCTD has been requested that ration through e-coupons be delivered at the earliest because these e-coupon holders are returning empty handed due to paucity of ration.

Hetu Arora Sethi, Counsel for respondents 1, 3 and 4 assured the Court that all the e-coupon holders as mentioned shall be supplied ration through the Ration distribution centre set up. Further she sought 1 weeks time to supply the same.

Bench on perusal of the above, stated that,

“It is most unacceptable that e-coupons have been distributed in such a large number and yet e-coupon holders are left high and dry.”

GNCTD ought to have ensured that sufficient quantities of ration is made available in proportion to number of e-coupon issued for purposes of distribution.

Thus, respondents are directed to ensure that all pending e-coupon holders are supplied ration through ration distribution centre by 21-05-2020 evening and on failing the same, petitioner shall be entitled to approach the Court.

                                             “Any non-compliance shall be viewed seriously.”

Thus in view of the above, petition stands disposed of. [Shabnam v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, WP(C) No. 3205 of 2020, decided on 10-05-2020]

Telangana High Court
Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Telangana High Court: A Division Bench of Raghvendra Singh Chauhan, CJ and A. Abhishek Reddy, J., while addressing a petition directed the State Government to provide free ration to the transgender population without asking for ration / white acrd, etc.

Petition was filed to sought direction  to respondents with regard to providing free of cost ration, food and nutrition and provisions including vegetables and fruit to members of the transgender community from ration shops and also from other outlets without insisting for the production of Ration card. 

Adding to the above, respondents also be directed to provide Free of cost medicines to transgender persons including HIV medications, hormone therapy medicines, diabetes and other medications to be made available to transgender persons from primary health centres and from government and public hospitals.

  • To allow transgender persons to apply for and provide the payment of three months social security pension to transgender persons under the Aasara scheme.
  • Direct the respondents to provide free LPG cylinders and waive electricity bill for 6 months to transgender persons in the lines of the similar assurance for 3 months under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana.
  • Direct the respondents herein to extend the Aarogyashri government medical insurance to transgender persons and Direct that the Aarogyashri include the health challenges of COVID-19,
  • Direct the respondents to take appropriate action against those who are targeting the Transgender Persons by falsely labelling them in public as the potential carriers of HIV positive and CoronaVirus and consequently direct the Respondents herein to protect the Iife by providing appropriate security to the Transgender persons in all public places.
  • Direct the respondents to place moratorium on the collection of rents till the end of June, free of interest and late payment penalty fees and;
  • pass orders directing landlords that they should not evict transgender persons from existing rental premises for non-payment of rent during the present period

Sri R Sameer Ahmed Advocate for the Petitioner and of Sri B.S. Prasad, Advocate General, for the respondents presented the arguments.

Decision of the Bench

Bench at first stated that the present petition has highlighted the plight of transgender population during the COVID-19 Lockdown.

Court directed Advocate General B.S. Prasad, to accept notice on behalf of the respondents and has been directed to report on the following points:

  • number of transgenders living in the major cities of the State
  • concrete steps being taken by the State Government for ensuring that the members of the transgender community have ready availability of food grains, consumable items, and medicines as per their need and requirement
  • number of NGOs with which the Government is coordinating in order to ensure that all the essential commodities do reach the transgender community through these NGOs

State Government is directed to ensure that these commodities are given to transgender community members, free of cost without insisting on producing ration card/white card, etc.

Matter to be listed on 11-05-2020.[Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli v. State of Telangana,  2020 SCC OnLine TS 440 , decided on 27-04-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, SK Kaul and BR Gavai, JJ has refused to pass order directing Centre to provide ration to those people who do not have any ration card and also for universilization of the Public Distribution System.

Saying that the prayer made by the petitioner is a ‘policy issue’ and that only Government can take a call on that, it said,

“This being a policy issue, it is left open to the Government of India and also the concerned States/Union Territories to consider such relief.”

[Aayom Welfare Society v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 428 , decided on 30.04.2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A bench headed by SA Bobde, CJ has granted four weeks time to states and Union Territories to respond on a plea alleging death by starvation of persons due to denial of ration over problems in Aadhaar linkage with ration cards. The Court noted that most of the States and Union Territories have not filed their response on the plea and asked them to submit their response. The court was informed that only Jharkhand, Nagaland, and Tamil Nadu have filed the reply in the case.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner, contended that Aadhaar linkage has resulted in 2.33 crore cancellation of ration cards between the years 2013 and 2016. Earlier, the Court had sought a response from the States on whether a person being denied rations over Aadhaar linkage.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a statement that 3 crores cards have been cancelled, Gonsalves argued, adding that 85 per cent cards were wrongly cancelled according to a recent survey. The petition was filed on behalf of the mother Koili Devi and sister Gudiya Devi of Santoshi, an 11-year-old girl from Simdega, Karimati in Jharkhand who died of starvation on September 28, 2017.

The petition highlighted that Santoshi’s death was due to the cancellation of her poor Dalit family’s ration card since it had not been linked to their Aadhaar card. Their rations had been stopped from March 2017, because of which, the entire family had been starving. On the day of Santoshi’s death, her mother served her some tea and salt – the only two things they had left. Later that night, Santoshi died, the plea said. Gonsalves has contended that in many states, the “notification is there but when tribals go to the centres there is no ration.”

(Source: ANI)