Delhi High Court has 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 Single Bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul has 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 said: 'At this time the attempt is to ensure that no one goes hungry.'
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 proceedings, Delhi Government informed the court that on April 13, it had issued an Advisory for addressing the grievance redressal mechanism. As per the Advisory, helping numbers and email IDs have been set up where aggrieved persons can register their complaints.
After being questioned by the court, the Delhi Government informed the court that the responsibility has been given to District Magistrates to ensure that fair price shops are open and ration is being disbursed to the beneficiaries.
To effectuate the same, the State Government said, Google Forms are given to fair price shops to fill in details about the ration stock after the end of each day.
Delhi Government further submitted that Hunger Relief Centres are set up within 200 metres of each residential zone which are feeding around 10 lakh people every day. Moreover, the benefits of the mid-day meal scheme are not just extended to the students but also their parents.
At this point, Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh, who appeared for the Petitioner submitted that there's a need to divide Delhi into four zones and appoint a Nodal Officer for each zone to address the grievances of the public.
While informing the court that 37% of ration shops in Delhi were found to be shut on working days, Mr Parikh contended that there's a need to make the data on the functioning of ration shops and the grievances, public.
After taking these submissions into record, the court issued notice to the Union as well as the Delhi Government to file their replies within 3 days.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Government is directed to publicize the helpline numbers in both print and electronic media. Moreover, the government has to upload the details of the grievance officer and the grievance redressal procedure so that the same can be accessed by the aggrieved persons.