'Complete Process Of Issuance Of Voter IDs To Sex Workers' : Supreme Court Directs States

Shruti Kakkar

10 Jan 2022 2:05 PM GMT

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  • Complete Process Of Issuance Of Voter IDs To Sex Workers : Supreme Court Directs States

    The Supreme Court today granted State Government/Union Territories two weeks time to the states to file status reports relating to the issuance of ration cards/Voters Identity cards and Aadhar Card to sex workers.While granting time, the bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai also directed the States/UT's to complete the process of issuance of voter cards/ration cards of...

    The Supreme Court today granted State Government/Union Territories two weeks time to the states to file status reports relating to the issuance of ration cards/Voters Identity cards and Aadhar Card to sex workers.

    While granting time, the bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai also directed the States/UT's to complete the process of issuance of voter cards/ration cards of sex workers.

    Directions were also issued to the Community Based Organisations to submit a list of sex workers to be identified by the District Legal Services Authority or the concerned State AIDS Control Societies. The bench further directed for forwarding the list to the State Governments/ UT's for issuance of Aadhaar/Voter Cards.

    "The states/UT's are directed to complete the process of issuance of Voter Cards and report to this court within a period of 2 weeks from today. The basis of identification of sex workers need not be restricted to lists prepared by NAACO. Community based organisation shall submit a list of sex workers which shall be identified by DSLA/concerned states AIDS Control society. On such a suggestion, a list shall be forwarded to SG/UT's for issuance of Voter Cards/Ration Cards," the bench said in its order.

    The Top Court in its order also recorded that a large number of sex workers had Ration Cards and dry ration was also being provided to the sex workers who did not have ration cards without insisting on proof of residence.

    The bench in its order also noted that the counsel for UIDAI would take instructions for considering to grant Aadhar cards to the sex workers based on the list submitted by NACO without insisting on residential proof.

    "The documents filed along with the affidavit show that the proof of residence has to be submitted for issuing Aadhar cards. Mr Zoehb Hussian(appearing for UIDAI) submitted that he would take instructions on the suggestions by Amicus Curia regarding exemption on submitting proof by sex workers who can be given Aadhaar on the basis of list submitted by NACO," bench in this regard said in the order.

    The Top Court on December 14, 2021 had directed the State Governments and Union Territories to commence the process of issuance of ration cards/ Voters Identity cards immediately to sex workers from the list that is maintained by NACO.

    Courtroom Exchange

    When the matter was called for hearing, Advocate Sachin Patil for State of Maharashtra submitted that the state had identified 25,000 sex workers out of which dry ration was being provided to 25,000 sex workers but ration cards was issued to 20,000 sex workers.

    "Even if you've not filed an affidavit and as you say that 20,000 have been provided ration cards- we will record your statement and say that you will have to get a status report in 2 or 3 weeks. Numbers are going on increasing. Don't leave them at the lurch. Provide them with ration please," Justice Rao the presiding judge of the bench remarked while asking the State to file a status report.

    With regards to the State of West Bengal, the bench on State of West Bengal's failure to file a status report deprecated the State's actions and said,

    "How many times do we tell you? In child matters also, you have not filed. We will have to file strictures against the state of WB. Why is that the State of West Bengal does not file an affidavit if other states are filing. If we're not taking a tough stand, you cannot take the court lightly . We ask you to take this matter very seriously. You file an affidavit within 2 weeks. We have been taking the matter regularly because ration is not being provided and survival is the problem."

    At this juncture, Advocate Sayandeep Pahari for West Bengal informed the bench that the State had provided some special coupons called as Khatiya Sathi in compliance with the Top Court orders.

    For the State of Uttar Pradesh, the counsel submitted that the State had to hold a meeting today on the aspect of issuance of Aadhaar cards to sex workers.

    "Your state is going for elections but that does mean that you cannot file the affidavit. File the status report. When you have information, why don't you type it and give it to us? You have information, you don't file it," the bench remarked.

    Advocate Sandeep Jha appearing for the State of Rajasthan informed the Court that the State with the help of NGO's and States AIDS Control Society had identified 12713 sex workers. He further submitted that the process of issuance of ration cards had been started and the workers were being provided with dry ration without any documents.

    "Don't delay the matters. They are not matters that can wait. This is a matter of survival. Ensure that you provide the ration, now again we're closing down. Take care of them," bench said to Advocate Sumeer Sodhi for the State of Chattisgarh.

    Advocate Jyoti Mendiratta appearing for GNCTD had submitted that the State Government had issued a SOP as per which ration was being provided to sex workers in 86 Public Distribution Centres without insisting on ration cards.

    On the other hand, Advocate Manpreet Singh Doabia appearing for Chandigarh submitted that money was being credited to the beneficiary's account directly.

    Appearing for Kerala, Advocate CK Sasi submitted that the funds were being allotted to State AIDS Control Society and that only 228 sex workers in the State did not have ration cards. On Advocate CK Sasi's submission, the bench asked the counsel to issue ration cards to 228 sex workers who did not have the same.

    For State of Jammu and Kashmir, Advocate Parth Awasthi submitted that although the state was distributing dry ration to sex workers but it could not arrange data due to snowfall.

    "Order was passed one month back and now you're saying that you are awaiting data. Heavy snowfall- it doesn't mean that stomachs can't be filled. If there are any more that are not being given, see to it that they are being given," remarked Justice Rao.

    The bench also asked State of Haryana's Counsel Monika Gosain to issue ration cards without insisting on proof. Request was also made to the State to continue giving dry ration to sex workers.

    Senior Advocate Anand Grover had submitted that a large number of sex workers were left out on the lists available with NACO as according to their scheme minimum of 1000 sex workers were to be there in a community based on which inclusion was supposed to be made in NACO's list. It was also his contention that in case a community had less than 1000 sex workers, members of such community did not find name in the list prepared by NAACO, which thereby resulted in non issuance of ration cards or being provided with ration. He further submitted that in spite of orders passed by this court, ration was being provided intermittently. He had also submitted that all sex workers- female, male, Transgenders should be made eligible for Ration Cards/ Voter Cards as per the orders of this court.

    Senior Advocate Jayant Bhushan (amicus curiae) assisted by Advocate Pijush K Roy had submitted that providing ration to Sex Workers should not be stopped by State Governments for any reason whatsoever. In compliance with order passed on Dec 14, Senior Counsel stated that info provided by Community Based Organisations (CBO's) should be taken into account for preparing a list of workers who would be entitled for Ration Cards. With reference to the affidavit filed by UIDAI and issuance of Adhaar, senior counsel suggested that reality was that sex workers could not produce proof of residence and therefore list prepared by NACO could be considered for issuance of Adhaar Cards. He further flagged the issues relating to sex workers not coming forward in some state for ration cards/ voter identity cards and thus this was a matter that was to be enquired into.

    Appearing for UIDAI, Advocate Zoheb Hussain submitted that the requirement for issuance of Aadhaar card was not complicated as aadhaar cards were being issued on furnishing name, age, proof of residence and Mobile Number.

    "They already have a list of sex workers prepared by NAACO which was being used for the purpose of giving them aid. You can consider giving aadhaar based on this without residential address verification. That is what we are seeking. We'll pass the order of UIDAI after 2 weeks, and consider the suggestions," remarked Justice LN Rao.

    Advocate Archana Pathak Dave appearing for Gujarat while referring to the affidavit dated January 8, 2022 submitted that those sex workers who had not come forward for issuance of Aadhaar Cards/Voter Cards were being provided for dry ration under schemes in State. Thereafter the bench directed the State of Gujarat to enquire into aspect as to why such large number of sex workers were not coming forward for taking Ration Cards/Voter Identity Cards.

    Case Title: BUDHADEV KARMASKAR vs. THE STATE OF WEST BENGAL| Crl.A. No. 135 / 2010

    Click Here To Read/Download Order

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