The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that baseless allegations have been made in connection with deaths due to starvation in Jharkhand, and cancellation of ration cards of nearly thirty million poor people in the country.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal contended before a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde that he will put the response on an affidavit as incorrect statistics have been relied upon to arrive at this conclusion.
The response from the government’s top law officer came during the hearing of a PIL, where senior advocate Colin Gonsalves alleged the food has been denied to many in absence of Aadhaar card, which led to starvation deaths.
The PIL petitioner and the Centre traded charges on the authenticity of the data on alleged cancellation of ration cards.
Gonsalves claimed before the bench also comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant that ration cards of nearly three crore people have been cancelled. He cited the death of the 13-year-old girl due to starvation in Jharkhand after she was denied ration due to non-matching of Aadhaar details with her ration card.
However, Venugopal insisted the Centre is in the process of gathering details from the state government, which have not filed a report despite notice issued in December 2019, and then file a comprehensive response on the matter.
Gonsalves cited Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s response in the Parliament, where he had said, to stop leakages, 2.33 crore ration cards have been cancelled. Venugopal replied this happened between 2013 to 2016, and these were not genuine ration cards.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing after four weeks, and asked the states to submit response on this matter. The apex court had already issued notices to the state governments seeking their response on the implementation and setting up of a grievance redressal mechanism under the Food Security Act, which aims at food for all.
The Centre had stated that as per Section 40 of the Act, every state government is mandated to have internal grievance redressal mechanism or nodal officers for effective and expeditious redressal of grievances.