The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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SC ruling

New Delhi, Oct. 29 (PTI): The Supreme Court today said state chief secretaries would be held responsible for future deaths due to starvation and malnutrition.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice B.N. Kirpal said it was the duty of each state to prevent death from starvation and malnutrition.

The bench, which included Justices Y.K. Sabharwal and Arijit Passayat, said: “If the commissioners report to the satisfaction of the court that starvation deaths have taken place, the court will be justified in presuming that court orders have not been implemented and the chief secretary of the state or administrator of the Union territory will be held responsible.”

On May 8, the court had directed governments to implement poverty-alleviation schemes and had appointed former planning secretary N.C. Saxena and former rural development secretary S.R. Shankaran as court commissioners to monitor implementation of the schemes and give a report to the court.

The bench passed the order on a petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties seeking implementation of the poverty-alleviation schemes, as well as the food-for-work programme.

Attorney general Soli J. Sorabjee contended that there was no shortage of food in the country and that, in many cases, the states had not even lifted the foodgrains allocated to them, especially in the case of Rajasthan.

“Your chief minister had no business to ask for more foodgrains when what was given free of cost by the Centre was not lifted,” the bench told the counsel for Rajasthan, Abhisek Manu Singhvi.

“They (the states) are all playing politics. Unfortunately, every litigation has become personal-interest oriented — whether it is water or food,” the court observed, referring to the litigation between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over Cauvery waters.

The bench asked the chief secretaries to give wide publicity within eight weeks to the directions of the court regarding implementation of various poverty-alleviation programmes and schemes. The directions, it said, should be prominently displayed at gram panchayats, school buildings and fair price shops, as well as advertised on All India Radio and Doordarshan.

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