New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday termed the cancellation of around three crore ration cards by the Centre due to non-linking with Aadhaar card as “too serious”, and sought response from the Central government and all states on the issue.
A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said this matter should not be treated as adversarial as it is too serious a matter.
The bench said the matter will be put up for final hearing. At the outset, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for petitioner Koili Devi, said the petition deals with the larger issue.
“We see the problem at hand and I have dealt with this kind of matter in Bombay High Court and I think this matter should be filed before the high court concerned,” the CJI said.
The bench told Gonsalves that he has sought a very omnibus kind of relief and widened the scope of the matter.
Gonsalves persisted with his arguments that it is an important issue as the Centre has cancelled around three crore ration cards.
The bench said it will hear the matter on some other day as it is persuaded by Gonsalves that the Central government has cancelled the ration cards.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi said it is a wrong statement made by Gonsalves that the Centre has cancelled the ration cards.
“We are asking you (Centre) to respond because of Aadhaar issue. This is not an adversarial litigation. We will hear it finally. Issue notice returnable in four weeks”, the bench said.
Lekhi said that notice has already been issued in the matter and Centre’s response is there on record.
Gonsalves said notice has not been issued on main plea but on alternative grievance redressal.
“Principle issue is cancellation of three crore ration cards and starvation death”, Gonsalves said.
In December 9, 2019, the top court had sought responses from all the states over allegations of starvation deaths of people who were deprived of their ration supplies for not having valid Aadhaar cards.
“Issue notice returnable in four weeks to the respondent States calling upon them to apprise steps they have taken for implementation of the grievances redressal mechanism contained in Sections 14, 15 and 16 of the National Food Security Act, 2013. Notice may be served on the standing counsel for the state,” the bench had said.
The Centre had earlier said that reports suggest that the deaths were not due to starvation.
“No one was denied food because of lack of valid Aadhaar card,” it had said.
The PIL has been filed by on Devi, whose 11-year-old daughter Santoshi of Simdega district in Jharkhand died of starvation on September 28, 2018. Santoshi’s sister Gudiya Devi is the joint petitioner in the case.
The petition pointed out that Santoshi, who belonged to a poor Dalit family, died as the local authorities had cancelled the ration card of her family since they failed to link it with Aadhaar.
It said that subsequently, the family stopped receiving ration from March 2017 and as a result, the entire family had been starving.
Even on the day Santoshi died, her mother could only serve her some tea with salt – the only thing the family had in its kitchen, the plea said, adding that Santoshi succumbed to hunger later that night.