Implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013: Court directs states to consider their obligations for providing at least required food grains to people in drought- hit areas
Writ Petition (Civil) No. 857 of 2015
Bench: Justice Madan B. Lokur; Justice N. V. Ramana
Case Brief: The bench in its earlier decision in this writ petition, which was made on 11th day of May, 2016 provided for several directives in connection with the drought and the drought- like conditions which are persisting in the several parts in India. And, now, in this decision the bench had decided to consider the issue as to the implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013. Moreover, in connection with the implementation of the said Act, the State Government is required to complete some preliminary steps and in that relation, the Government of India had earlier issued some guidelines. Thus, the respondent herein submitted that in 32 states and union territories, and also in Gujarat, the Government was to implement the said Act from 1st day of April 2016 and for Gujarat it was informed during hearing, the said Act is being implemented. It was also observed by this bench that even if the said Act is enacted by the Parliament, and having came into force, but there are some states which still have not implemented this Act in relation to their territories.
The bench observed that in India the deliberate inaction in the implementation of the Parliamentary statue by a State Government can only lead to utter chaos or worse. However, this bench also found that it is beyond the power of the judiciary to issue mandamus for implementing the said Act beyond what is required by the terms and provisions of the statute. As such, the bench here decided to mention that at least one fourth of the population of the country (if not one third) is affected by drought and the State Government must take appropriate steps for ensuring that at least the statutory requirement of food grains is made available to them. Also, this bench saw that there is undoubtedly a distinction between a ‘statutory obligation’ and a ‘constitutional obligation’ but there can be no doubt that the right to food is actually a ‘constitutional right’ and ‘not merely a statutory right’. Thus, the bench decided to direct the States before it, saying that they shall establish an internal grievance mechanism and appoint or designate for each district a District Grievance Redressal Officer, as also provided under Section 14 of the Act within given period, unless such provisions will be actually complied with, and this officer should also deal with the grievances as to non- supply of food grains in absence of ration card. Moreover, this bench also directed the constitution of the State Food Commissions by the States. Moreover, if in any state a drought is already or in future will be declared, then the households should be provided with their monthly requirement of food grains as per the provisions of the said Act, irrespective of ‘priority’ or their holding of ration card. Special provisions for the children with the supply of milk and egg, for the given period was also directed.
Read the Judgement: Swaraj Abhiyan – (II) Vs Union of India & Ors