29 Jun 2121

It is the bounden duty of all states and governments to provide food security to impoverished persons and also Right to Life includes Right to food and other basic necessities under Indian Constitution - Supreme Court of India

Case : Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs. Union of India & Ors. In Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No. 6 of 2021 with Writ Petition (C) No. 916 of 2020

Court : Supreme Court of India

Bench : Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice M. R. Shah

Decided on : 29 Jun 2121

Relevant Statutes

Article 21 of the Indian constitution

Section 3 of the Coverage of Rural and Urban Population under National Food Security Act, 2013

Inter-State Migrant workmen regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service Act, 1979

Construction Worker Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act, 1996

Unorganized Worker’s social Security At 2008

Brief Facts and Procedural History

1. The Court took the suo moto cognizance regarding the problems of the migrant labourers and issued notice to Union of India, States and other union Territories to assist the court about the steps taken by the government of India by order dated 26.05.2020. All states, Central Government and Union territories have filed affidavits and also some people filed intervening applications about the problem of Transportation of migrant labourers from their work to their native place during this pandemic. 

2. Afterwards the directions were issued on 28.05.2020 and 9.06.2019 to all states and union territories. Later, on 31. 07.2020, this matter was again heard and referred to three enactments i.e. Inter-State Migrant workmen regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service Act, 1979, Construction Worker Regulation of Employment and  Condition of Service ) Act, 1996 and unorganized Worker’s Social Security Act 2008 and directed to implement them.

3. A Writ Petition was filed seeking distribution of dry ration to the migrant workers, facilitating transport by road or train and also requested for the running of community kitchen so that their family members could get two meals a day. Further on 13.05.2012, various other directions were issued. On 24.05.2021, matters were again heard and the court further passed some other directions about the problems of the migrant workers. Lastly, the Writ Petition was again heard on 11.06.2021, but the hearing was closed. 

The Issues of the Case

Whether migrant workers are entitled to a dry ration under the National Food Security Act 2013 and implementation of the One Nation One Ration Card Scheme?

Whether the migrant labourers are entitled to community Kitchen, direct bank transfer or transportation facilities?

The Observations of the Court

1. The Honourable Supreme Court observed that the Right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution also includes the Right to live with dignity means the right to food and other basic necessities. It is also specified in the Preamble and Directive Principle of State Policy.

2. The Honourable Supreme Court has observed all the directions which were issued to the States and the Union Territories for transportation of migrant labourers to their native place as they were not able to get employment during this pandemic or implementation of various schemes. The Honourable Supreme Court observed that workers who are the great sufferers during this pandemic and also who do not possess the ration card were not entitled to dry ration. 

3. One Nation One Ration Card scheme should be implemented in every state for nationwide portability National food Security Act Ration Card. The Honourable Supreme Court held that section 3 of the Coverage of Rural and Urban Population under the National Food Security Act (2013) provides for the Right to receive food grains at subsided prices. The Central government should take steps to re-determine the total number of persons to be covered under Rural and Urban areas which will be beneficial to the whole society.

4. The Honourable Supreme Court stated that all the state or Union territories should register all the establishments and also ensure the duty imposed on the contractors to which the migrant worker shall comply with under the Inter-State Migrant Workman (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service Act, 1979)

5. The Honourable Supreme Court observed various affidavits have been received regarding the implementation of the above enactments from NCT Delhi, State of Gujarat, State of Telangana, State of Chhattisgarh, State of Uttar Pradesh, State of Jharkhand, State of Bihar. The state of Karnataka, State of Madhya Pradesh, State of Maharashtra, State of West Bengal and held that the state should run a community Kitchen for the number of migrant labourers and any person is entitled to direct bank transfer as per the schemes in any state. 

The Decision Held by the Court

1. The Honourable Supreme Court disposed of all the writ petitions including Writ Petition  No 916 of 2020.

2. The Honourable Supreme Court give direction to states and other Union territories that those States which have not implemented the One Nation One Ration Card scheme, The Court directed them to implement before 31.07.2021. 

3. To distribute dry rations to migrant labourers and also ask the Central government to provide additional food grains to the state.

4. The Court also directed the Central Government to develop the portal in connection with the National Informatics Centre for registration of unorganized migrant labourers before 31.12.2021 

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