New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said the National Food Security Act 2013 has not been implemented properly, and it is a "pity" that a legislation enacted by parliament for citizens' benefit was kept on the "back-burner" by various states.
The apex court observed that almost four years have gone by since the Act was enacted, but the authorities and bodies mandated to be set up under it have not been made functional yet in some states, and this reflects the "pathetic" compliance of the provisions.
"We are in general agreement with counsel for the petitioner and the fact that even after prodding by the central government and our prodding, many of the state governments have not yet established a working state food commission. This is a clear indication that there is hardly any commitment to the implementation of the NFS (National Food Security) Act," a bench of Justices MB Lokur and NV Ramana said.
Justice Ramana, who concurred with the finding arrived at by Justice Lokur, wrote a separate judgement and said that it was not proper on the part of some states to ignore the plight of common man in enforcing such important legislations.
"Record indicates that a combined effort, both by the Centre and states, needs to be taken for effective implementation of the Act, especially in drought-affected areas so as to save people from abject poverty and poor quality of life. States should take up this matter with much more seriousness and implement the Act in its true letter and spirit," Justice Ramana said.
The apex court also noted that state food commission has not been established and appointments have not been made in some states such as Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana.
"This compliance with the NFS Act is pathetic, to say the least, and it is in this background that we are required to consider this case," it said, adding that, "It is a pity that legislation enacted by Parliament for the benefit of people should be kept on the back burner by some of the state governments before us."
The court observed that non-compliance of the provisions reduces the importance of a basic right to wholesome and nutritious food, particularly for women and children which are the objective of the Act.
"In our opinion, it is more important that each state government and union territory realises and appreciates their statutory and constitutional obligations, and ensures that the will of Parliament which enacted the National Food Security Act, 2013 is given full effect to in letter and spirit," it said.
Passing a slew of directions, the bench said the secretary of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution should convene one or more meetings on or before 31 August, 2017 of the secretaries concerned of all the states and union territories to take stock of the implementation of the Act and brainstorm over finding ways and means to effectively implement its provision.
It said that law enacted by Parliament, as a part of its social justice obligation, must be given its due respect and must be implemented faithfully, sincerely and positively before the end of this year.
The court also asked the secretary to emphatically request and comment to every states and union territories to notify appropriate rules for a grievance redressal mechanism under the provisions of the Act and designate appropriate and independent officials as district grievance redressal officer within a fixed time frame within this year.
It directed the secretary to ask the states and union territories to constitute, establish and make fully functional a state food commission and vigilance committee before year end and the states have to ensure that adequate arrangements are made for the meaningful functioning of the commission.
"The Secretary in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution will ensure that the social audit machinery postulated by section 28 of the NFS Act and which is already in place in so far as the MGNREGA Act is concerned is established at the earliest with appropriate modifications...," the bench said.
In its verdict, the apex court said that it was "pained" to read the affidavit filed by Haryana which said that there was hardly any work for the state food commission.
"With such an attitude, it is very unlikely that any progress will ever be made either by the state of Haryana or the state food commission in Haryana in the matter of food security," it said, adding, "One can only feel sorry for the people in Haryana".
The apex court's verdict came on a plea filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan seeking various relief for farmers in drought affected states.
The petition has alleged that parts of 12 states, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chhattisgarh were hit by drought and the authorities were not providing adequate relief.
Updated Date: Jul 21, 2017 20:48 PM