Food security: SC raps Centre, States
The Supreme Court noted in a judgment what use is a law of a parliament if State governments and Union Territories do not implement it at all, let alone implement it in letter and spirit, as mere schemes without any implementation are of no use.
The judgment by a Bench also listed nine other States that includes Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. These states had all come under the SC’s scanner for their damp response to the food security law meant to help those living below the poverty line.
- The National Food Security Bill was passed by the parliament and received presidential assent on September 10, 2013. Almost four years have gone by but the authorities and bodies mandated to be set up under the National Food Security Act, 2013 have not yet been made functional in some states
- The Haryana State food commission, set up under the National Food Security Act, has been sitting idle and without proper infrastructure, owing to the State government's lackluster response to the four-year-old welfare legislation
Role of Centre in implementing the law:
- The Court remarked that the centre cannot look the other way, passing the buck on to the states for not implementing the law. Referring to Article 256 of the Constitution, the judgment said the “Government of India cannot plead helplessness in requiring State Governments to implement parliamentary laws”.
- In his separate view, Justice Ramana focused on the spirit of co-operative federalism which is unique to Indian democracy, stating that in India the “Union and the States are co-equals”
Challenges that need to be overcome:
- Justice Lokur expressed skepticism about the motivation of the Centre and the States to implement the much-needed law
- At one point, the bench asked itself an open-ended question: “What remedy does a citizen of India have if the Government of India does not issue a direction and the State Government or the Union Territory does not implement a law passed by the Parliament?"
- The court directed the government to frame rules and designate independent officials for a grievance redressal mechanism under the act within a year
- It directed the States to set up State Food Commissions and vigilance committees in every state by the end of the year and set up social audit machinery