Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi Government to ensure that every person who is in need of ration should be provided the same without any bureaucratic hurdles of 'e-coupons', especially to those who are in dire need of food.
The Division Bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Talwant Singh further directed the Delhi Government to install complaint boxes at all the ration shops and designated schools and also ensure that all the help-line numbers are functional.
The order has come in a PIL filed by Delhi Rozi-Roti Adhika Abhiyan, seeking implementation of the provisions of the National Food Security Act regarding establishment of Grievance Redressal Committee to address the concerns of the public.
The petition claims that that there have been widespread violations in the implementation of the NFSA including ration shops being shut during working hours, denial of access to food grain and other key resources and lack of implementation of necessary grievance redressal and accountability mechanisms.
As per the Petitioner, such non implementation of NFSA amounts to the breach of duty enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution as it has caused distress to a large number of people who are rendered helpless by the ongoing pandemic.
Therefore, the petition seeks direction to be issued to the Delhi Government to ensure that people are not denied access to foodgrains and other resources at the time of such crisis. This is significant to alleviate the struggle of hundreds of people who have been pushed to hunger and unemployment due to the ongoing lockdown.
To ensure the same, the Petitioner has asked the court to direct Delhi Government to to set up and operationalise the accountability and Grievance
Redress System (including a State Food Commission, social audits) as envisaged under Sections 14, 15,16 and 28 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 in order to ensure that no one goes hungry for want of food and its denial on any technical ground.
In today's hearing, the Petitioner submitted that the system of issuing e-coupons to those who do not have ration cards was inaccessible to the most vulnerable as it required a smartphone, ability to use the internet, generate OTP, upload photos of the family and a copy of the Aadhaar and finally to download the e-coupon.
It was then suggested by the Petitioner that facilitation desks should be set up at all the schools and ration shops to give coupons to people who need foodgrains but do not have ration cards and are unable to apply for e-coupons.
While asking the government to continue to implement the directions passed in the last hearing, the court directed the government to file a detailed compliance report before the next date of hearing.
In the last hearing, the court had directed the Delhi Government to ensure that all the Public Distribution System (PDS) are open and efficiently disbursing ration to beneficiaries, as per the PDS scheme.
The court had also asked the Delhi Government to monitor the functioning of each ration shop through Sub Divisional Magistrates, and upload data on disbursement of ration after each day.
While addressing the urgency of the matter, the court had said:
'At this time the attempt is to ensure that no one goes hungry.' In addition to this, the Delhi Government was also directed to publicize the helpline numbers in both print and electronic media. Moreover, the government had to upload the details of the grievance officer and the grievance redressal procedure so that the same can be accessed by the aggrieved persons