SC slams govt over lack of progress over community kitchens

Wednesday 24th November 2021 05:57 EST

Chafing at the lack of progress in framing a uniform scheme to ensure cooked food for the hungry and destitute across the states, the Supreme Court pilloried the Centre for filing a deficient affidavit, that too by a junior officer, before threatening to "throw out the affidavit" for the government's lack of respect to the highest court.

The SC's earnest endeavour to make the Centre frame a uniform policy and the latter not keeping its promise to work towards it irked a bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli, which said, "You had promised to frame a uniform policy. There is not a word about it in the affidavit. Your secretary is so arrogant that he undermines highest court by asking an undersecretary to file the affidavit. This cannot go on."

Such was intensity of questioning from the CJI and Justice Kohli that ASG Madhvi Divan had to repeatedly plead for permission to complete an argument on the difficulties faced by the Centre in framing a uniform scheme given the diversity of conditions in states, many of which are already implementing a scheme for highly subsidised cooked food for citizens. "We cannot thrust a scheme on community kitchens in the states," she said.

As the ASG was finding it difficult to extricate the Centre from the situation, attorney general K K Venugopal intervened to calm frayed nerves, saying a uniform community kitchen scheme could be framed but only if the states agreed since the Constitution mandates poverty alleviation schemes and public distribution system implementation to the panchayati raj mechanism under the states.

He said the country has 663,000 villages and 255,000 panchayats. "We will deal with the matter and come out with a concrete scheme after a thorough consultation with the states. The scheme involves taking care of huge logistics - foodgrains have to be transported to panchayats, storage space has to be created and kitchens have to be set up. We can come forward with a scheme while not violating the constitutional mandate about the three-tier governance system."

The CJI-led bench said, "If you (the governments) want to take care of hunger, no Constitution or law will negate or impede it. Don't think that we want linking community kitchens with the schemes to provide nourishment to children. We are only concerned with hunger."

comments powered by Disqus

to the free, weekly Asian Voice email newsletter