Provide food to people dying of hunger, Supreme Court tells Centre

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Expresses strong displeasure over the Centre's response on framing a pan-India policy

New Delhi: Asserting that a welfare state's first responsibility is to provide food to people "dying due to hunger", the Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed strong displeasure over the Centre's response on framing a pan-India policy to implement the Community Kitchen Scheme and granted it three weeks to hold a meeting with states.

A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli was also irked with the Centre's affidavit as it was filed by an official of the level of an Under Secretary and did not divulge details about the proposed scheme and its roll out as sought, and gave a "final warning" to the government. The top court was hearing a PIL seeking directions to the Centre, states and Union Territories (UTs) to formulate a scheme for community kitchens to combat hunger and malnutrition.

"See if you want to take care of hunger, no Constitution or law will say no... This is the first principle: Every welfare state's first responsibility is to provide food to people dying due to hunger." The court said the Centre's affidavit does not indicate anywhere that it was considering framing a scheme. "You are extracting information. It does not say what fund you have collected and what you are doing etc. We wanted a uniform model from the Centre. You have to ask the states... Not to collect information like police," the bench said at the outset. "You cannot ask for information which is already available. Do you conclude your affidavit saying you will consider the scheme now. There is not a whisper in your 17-page affidavit," it added. The top court then expressed anguish over the filing of the affidavit by an Under Secretary of the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Administration. "This is the last warning I am going to give to the Government of India. Your Under Secretary files this affidavit. Why cannot a secretary level officer file the affidavit? You have to respect the institutions. We say something and you write something. This has been told several times earlier," the CJI said. Initially, the matter was being argued by Additional Solicitor General Madhvi Divan and later Attorney General K K Venugopal stepped in and assured the bench that a meeting would be held by the Centre and a decision taken on the issue and sought four weeks time from the bench.

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