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'Fundamental Right To Life Under Article 21 Includes Right To Food & Other Basic Necessities': Read Supreme Court Directions In Migrants Case

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
29 Jun 2021 7:16 AM GMT
Fundamental Right To Life Under Article 21 Includes Right To Food & Other Basic Necessities: Read Supreme Court Directions In Migrants Case
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"The Right to Life as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution gives right to every human being to live a life of dignity with access to at-least bare necessities of life."

The fundamental right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution may be interpreted to include right to live with human dignity, which may include the right to food and other basic necessities, the Supreme Court observed in its judgment delivered on Tuesday (29th June 2021) directing all the states to implement the "one nation, one ration card" scheme and to run community...

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The fundamental right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution may be interpreted to include right to live with human dignity, which may include the right to food and other basic necessities, the Supreme Court observed in its judgment delivered on Tuesday (29th June 2021) directing all the states to implement the "one nation, one ration card" scheme  and to run community kitchens for migrants.

The bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah observed that it is the bounden duty of all States and Governments to provide food security to impoverished persons.

The judgment was passed in a suo moto case, which was taken by the Supreme Court in May 2020 to deal with the problems of migrant workers. The court observed:

14. Our Constitution enjoins that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are for promoting welfare of the people by securing social and economic justice to the weaker section so as to sub-serve the common good to minimize inequalities in income and endeavour to eliminate inequality in status....

17....The Right to Life as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution gives right to every human being to live a life of dignity with access to at-least bare necessities of life. To provide food security to impoverished persons is the bounden duty of all States and Governments.

The court, taking note of the fact that, the Constitution of India does not have any explicit provision regarding right to food, observed thus :

32. There has been worldwide awareness regarding right to food to human being. Our country is no exception. Lately, all Governments have been taking steps and taking measures to ensure that no human being should be affected by hunger and no one dies out of hunger. The basic concept of food security globally is to ensure that all people, at all times, should get access to the basic food for their active and healthy life. The Constitution of India does not have any explicit provision regarding right to food. The fundamental right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution may be interpreted to include right to live with human dignity, which may include the right to food and other basic necessities.

In its order, the court directed the Central Government, Department of Food and Public Distribution (Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution) to allocate and distribute foodgrains as per demand of additional food grains from the States for disbursement of dry food grains to migrant labourers. The court also directed the States to bring in place an appropriate scheme for distribution of dry ration to migrant labourers for which it shall be open for States to ask for allocation of additional foodgrains from the Central Government, which, as directed above, shall provide the additional foodgrains to the State. 

The court disposed of the suo motu case by issuing following directions:

(i) It is directed that the Central Government to develop the Portal in consultation with National Informatics Centre (NIC) for registration of the unorganized labourers/migrant workers. We also impress upon and direct that the Central Government as well as the respective States and the Union Territories to complete the process of Portal for registration under National Data Base for Unorganised Workers (NDUW Project) as well as implement the same, which by all means may commence not later than 31.07.2021. We also impress upon and direct that the process of registration of the unorganized labourers/migrant workers is completed at the earliest, but not later than 31.12.2021. All the concerned States/Union Territories and the Licence Holders/Contractors and others to cooperate with the Central Government to complete the process of registration of migrant workers and unorganized labourers so that the benefits of the welfare schemes declared by the Central Government/State Governments/ Union Territories be available to migrant workers and unorganized labourers for whose benefits the welfare schemes are declared.
(ii) The Central Government having undertaken to distribute additional quantity of foodgrains as demanded by the States/Union Territories for distribution to migrant labourers under some Scheme framed by the States, we direct the Central Government, Department of Food and Public Distribution (Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution) to allocate and distribute foodgrains as per demand of additional food-grains from the States for disbursement of dry foodgrains to migrant labourers.
(iii) We direct the States to bring in place an appropriate scheme for distribution of dry ration to migrant labourers for which it shall be open for States to ask for allocation of additional foodgrains from the Central Government, which, as directed above, shall provide the additional foodgrains to the State. The State shall consider and bring an 78 appropriate Scheme, which may be implemented on or before 31.07.2021. Such scheme may be continued and operated till the current pandemic (Covid-19) continues.
(iv) The States, who have not yet implemented "One Nation One Ration Card" scheme are directed to implement the same by not later than 31.07.2021.
(v) The Central Government may undertake exercise under Section 9 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 to re-determine the total number of persons to be covered under the Rural and Urban areas of the State.
(vi) We direct all the States/Union Territories to register all establishments and license all contractors under the Act, 1979 and ensure that statutory duty imposed on the contractors to give particulars of migrant workers is fully complied with.
(vii) The State/Union Territories are directed to run community kitchens at prominent places where large number of migrant labourers are found for feeding those migrant labourers who does not have sufficient means to procure two meals a day. The running of the community kitchen should be continued at-least till pandemic (Covid-19) continues.
Case: RE: PROBLEMS AND MISERIES OF MIGRANT LABOURERS  [SMWP(C) 6/2020]
Coram: Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah
Citation: LL 2021 SC 274

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