According to several reports in the media, the Supreme Court bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and RK Agrawal disapproved strongly of the non-implementation of Food Security Act by certain States including Gujarat.
“Is Gujarat not part of India? Is it not bound to implement an Act passed by Parliament?”, Justice Lokur reportedly asked the Solicitor-General, Ranjit Kumar in Court No 8, while hearing the PIL filed by Swaraj Abhiyan, an NGO, run by former Aam Aadmi Party leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan.
The civil writ petition No 857 of 2015 was listed before the bench for the sixth time since 14 December last year, and the strong words used by the Bench indicates its exasperation with the non-serious attitude displayed by the state Governments and the Centre in providing immediate drought-relief to the affected people.
On 16 December, the bench comprising Justices Lokur and SA Bobde was told that a drought had been declared in some districts in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Maharashtra, Orissa and Jharkhand.
The bench was further told by the counsel for Swaraj Abhiyan, Prashant Bhushan that although a drought-like situation exists in Gujarat, Haryana and Bihar, there was no declaration of drought yet.
Prashant Bhushan had told the bench that under the provisions of Section 3 of the National Food Security Act, 2013, every family is entitled to 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month. He also told the bench that in addition, provision should be made for supply of at least 2 kg of dal per person per month and provision of milk to the children under the mid-day meal scheme or at least one egg per day so that there should be adequate protein available to them. The Court had issued notices to the states concerned and to the Centre, that day.
On 4 January, the bench comprising justices Lokur and Agrawal heard the matter and granted not more than 10 days for the parties to file a reply, which the Bench said, should include the implementation of the 16 December order, implementation of the NFSA, and Manual for Drought Management issued by the Union Ministry of Agriculture.
On 18 January, Prashant Bhushan made several suggestions before the bench. These include examination of the rainfall data by the affected States, giving broad interpretation to the NFSA, supply of daal at 2 kg per month per family, and of edible oil at 1 kg per month per family in the drought-affected areas, and provision of either milk or egg for children under the mid-day meal scheme.
He also suggested effective implementation of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA in drought-affected areas.
The bench had then proposed that the Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare should call a meeting of his counter-parts in the affected States to discuss these issues. The bench asked the Centre to consider seven specific queries posed by Prashant Bhushan.
On 22 January, the SG informed the bench that the Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture would meet his counterparts from the affected States on 25 and 27 January. The bench had expressed the hope that the States would take positive and necessary steps.
Today, the bench asked the Centre to compile information from drought-hit states on the implementation of welfare schemes like the MGNREGA, NFSA and the mid-day meal, and file the affidavit by 10 February.
The bench also asked Gujarat, Bihar and Haryana to explain their stand on declaration of drought in the affected areas, and provide the rain data in drought-affected districts by 10 February.
According to the petitioner, there are 12 drought-hit States, namely, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana.
The matter will be listed again for hearing on 12 February.
Read the Petition here.