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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Not happy with Centre’s affidavit, Supreme Court gives it three more weeks to frame community kitchen policy

"Every welfare state's first responsibility is to provide food to people dying due to hunger," a bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: November 16, 2021 4:56:33 pm
The bench also took exception to an under secretary filing the affidavit and said it should have been filed by a responsible officer.(File)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the Centre three more weeks to draw up a scheme in consultation with states to set up community kitchens across the country to prevent starvation deaths stating that it is “every welfare state’s first responsibility is to provide food to people dying due to hunger”.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana also conveyed its unhappiness over the affidavit filed by the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Administration and pointed out that it only had information collected from states but no concrete proposal.

The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli, said in its order: “We cannot leave the people in the lurch and say everything is fine. We are not happy with the affidavit filed by the under secretary of Government of India. On perusal, it seems they are still obtaining suggestions…Finally, we grant 3 weeks time to come up with some scheme (that) is agreeable to states also”. The court said that if states have any objection, it will consider that at the next hearing and asked all states to attend the meeting to be called by the Centre to formulate the scheme.

At the outset, the CJI said the affidavit “doesn’t indicate anywhere that you are considering framing a scheme. That isn’t there. You are extracting information…We wanted a uniform model from the Government of India. You have to ask states, see (if) there’s a proposal, a discussion for common community kitchen issue, give your suggestions, not to collect information like police…”, remarked the CJI.

The bench also took exception to an under secretary filing the affidavit and said it should have been filed by a responsible officer.

“Your responsible officer can’t file this affidavit? How many times have we said the responsible officer is supposed to file the affidavit?…You have to respect institutions. We say something, you write something. This can’t go on”, the CJI remarked.

Hearing the matter on October 27, the SC had said that states have the responsibility to establish the kitchens and asked the centre to convene a meeting to draw up a comprehensive scheme.

Appearing for the Centre Tuesday, Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Diwan said that a meeting was convened and what happened therein was provided in the affidavit.

Attorney General K K Venugopal agreed that nothing concrete came out in the meeting and sought to assure that a scheme can be worked out within the framework of the National Food Security Act.

“The question is simple, last occasion we made it clear that until the states are involved, the central government cannot do anything. So we asked the government to call a meeting and frame a policy. The issue is now, make a comprehensive scheme, identify areas where there is an immediate need so that it can be uniformly implemented”, remarked the CJI.

He told the AG: “See if you want to take care of hunger, no Constitution or law will say no. This is the first principle – every welfare state’s first responsibility is to provide food to people dying due to hunger.”

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