NEW DELHI – The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to entertain a plea by senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh seeking direction to the Centre and states to ensure universal coverage of food security during the coronavirus pandemic.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B.R. Gavai noted that people were moving the court under Article 32 of the Constitution without making any representation before the Centre. The court asked Ramesh’s counsel to withdraw the petition with the liberty to approach the appropriate authorities, and asked him to make a representation to the Centre.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta contended before the court that the representation from Ramesh will be given due respect and considered in the right earnest, “if we receive the representation”.
Senior advocate Salman Khurshid, representing Ramesh, contended that the issue is connected with food security and the petitioner was instrumental in the framing of the National Food Security Act of 2013.
Khurshid said the government has the ‘one nation one ration card’ scheme, which would take time and in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the country needs a policy soon.
Khurshid contended that several people have moved back from their places of work to their native places and they do not have local ration cards, which is becoming a hurdle, as the local authorities are not accepting the cards they have.
“I am simply asking the court to implement the Swaraj Abhiyan (judgement) directions issued in case of drought notifications,” Khurshid told the bench.
The bench observed that someone who is not in his native place may face difficulty, but those who have returned to the hometowns, the state will take care of them.
Justice Kaul said that some aberrations will arise in the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. “Efforts are being made. We can ask the Solicitor General to look into them,” said the bench.
Khurshid cited the apex court verdict in the Swaraj Abhiyan case, wherein it was stated that ration cards will not be necessary during disasters like drought.
“It is most respectfully prayed that this court may be graciously pleased to issue a writ in the nature of mandamus, or any other writ, order or direction to the respondents to ensure that the National Food Security Act, 2013 is being implemented rigorously by all the states,” the petition said.
Ramesh added in his petition that reports suggested that large sections of the poor and vulnerable are not getting food during the lockdown.