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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 April 2024

Supreme Court asks Centre, states and Union Territories to set up community kitchen to fight hunger

According to petitioners, large number of poor people suffered from malnutrition and hunger-related deaths

R. Balaji New Delhi Published 23.02.24, 05:27 AM
The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court File picture

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre, states and Union Territories to take a call on setting up “community kitchens”, but refused to pass any judicial order after the governments denied any starvation deaths in the country and claimed that the various policies evolved under the National Food Safety Act (NFSA) had vastly addressed the problems of hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

A bench of Justice Bela M. Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mithal said in a judgment: “The courts cannot direct the states to implement a particular policy or scheme on the ground that a better, fairer or wiser alternative is available. Legality of the policy, and not the wisdom or soundness of the policy, would be the subject of judicial review.

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“When the NFSA with a ‘right-based approach’ for providing food and nutritional security is in force and when other welfare schemes under the said Act have also been framed and implemented by the Union of India and the states, to ensure access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity, we do not propose to give any further direction in that regard.”

The bench also said that the court had not examined whether the concept of community kitchens was a better or wiser alternative available to the states to achieve the objective of the NFSA and they would rather prefer to leave it open to the states and UTs to explore such alternative welfare schemes as may be permissible under the NFSA.

The bench passed the judgment while disposing of a PIL filed by Anum Dhawan and certain others stated to be social activists, seeking a direction to the Centre and states and UTs to set up community kitchens for providing free nutritious food to the underprivileged. According to the petitioners, a large number of poor people suffered from malnutrition and hunger-related deaths.

However, both the Centre and states/ UTs, in response to the PIL, filed affidavits pleading that there were no starvation or hunger-related deaths. On the contrary, it was stated that various policies under the NFSA had been evolved by the respective governments to tackle the problem of hunger.

The states/ UTs cited schemes such as Poshan Abhiyan, Take Home Ration, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, Midday Meal, Open Market Sales Scheme, One Nation One Ration Card Scheme, Annapurna Scheme, Antyodaya Anna Yojana, etc, and also stated that some of the schemes are monitored by the Integrated Child Development Services and Integrated Tribal Development Programme.

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