The Bombay High Court on Friday disposed of a PIL based on the undertaking mad by the State Government to provide the benefits of the various public distribution schemes to the tribals in the State of Maharashtra.
A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice AA Sayed took note of the circular dated 27th April 2020 issued by the Ms. Manisha Verma, Principal Secretary, Tribal Development Department whereby the directions are given to all the collectors in the State to make available food grains and other essential food to the tribals including lactating mothers and children and all other measures regarding rations cards as mentioned in the said circular.
In the PIL, the Petitioner, social activist Mr. Vivek Pandit(founder of Shramajivi Sanghatana), had primarily prayed for necessary directions to the State Government to provide for ration / food supplies to the Adivasis / Tribals from the 16 sensitive project areas, from the Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Nashik, Dhule, Nandurbar, Jalgaon, Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Bhandara, Gondia, Nagpur, Yavatmal, Melghat (Amravati) and Kinvat (project Aurangabad) Districts in Maharashtra.
Mr. Vaibhav Bhure, Advocate for the Petitioner submitted that the various measures that the respondents proposed to undertake and implement but on the ground level it has been seen that the members of the tribal community are not deriving the benefits of either the Public Distribution System or the other welfare measures that have been devised to ensure that such members do enjoy the right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution. Mr. Bhure further submitted that issuance of ration cards has been delayed because the authorities have been asking for various documentary evidence which the members of the tribal community are not in a position to furnish at the moment and thus keeping the process of issuance of ration cards in abeyance, the respondents may be directed to ensure that food grains and other essential items do reach the members for their sustenance.
The High Court took the notice of the affidavit dated 13th May 2020 filed by the Tribal Development Department and the Circular dated 27th April 2020 and in its order stated, " We had enquired of Mr. Samant, learned Assistant Govt. Pleader, whether he is prepared to make a statement before us that food grains and other essential items, in terms of the various welfare schemes, are reaching the members of the tribal community. Responding thereto, he has answered in the affirmative."
The Court observed,
" We have no doubt in our mind that the testing times notwithstanding, the respondents would leave no stone unturned to reach out to the members of the tribal community, who are marginalized people, and to ensure that not a single member is left without food and the basic necessities in these dark hours. After all, one must not forget that Article 21 is the most fundamental of all Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part III of the Constitution."
They further stated, "We hope and trust that the statement of Mr. Samant, which is in the nature of an undertaking, would be honoured by the respondents in the right perspective."
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