The Madras HC on Tuesday issued notice to the government on plea seeking distribution of free rice and other essential supplies during the month of Ramzan to all the citizens of the State of Tamil Nadu holding valid rations cards irrespective of their religion.
The petitioner herein has filed a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying for the issuance of Writ of certiorarified Mandamus calling for the records of the State Government pertaining to the press release No.274 dated 16.04.2020 published by the Director, Information & Public Relation Department and quash the same, and consequently direct the Respondents to grant a food items i.e. rice, etc to the poor without any discrimination in the nature welfare measures to the entire state and so forth to the needy within the State of Tamil Nadu during the lockdown period due to COVID-19. and pass such further or other orders and may deem fit and proper in the circumstances of the above case and thus render justice.
Acting upon the plea, the division bench comprising of Justice M. Sathyanaryanan & Justice M. Nirmal Kumar, observed that the prayer for quashing of the press note is unsustainable as the same is sought on religious lines.
The High Court placing reliance on the Supreme Court Judgement passed in Prafull Goradia v. Union of India, (2011) 2 SCC 568, granting of support to Haj pilgrims, was challenged on the ground that it is in violation of Article 14 or Article 15 of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court of India had taken into consideration the scope of Article 27 of the Constitution of India as well as various decisions and observed as follows:-
“As per the counter-affidavit, the Government was not averse to the idea of granting support to a pilgrimage conducted by any community as for example when the Government incurs some expenditure for the Kumbh or for facilitating Indian Citizens going on pilgrimage to Mansarovar, or visit temples and gurdwaras in Pakistan. Thus there is no discrimination…….”
“……..It is due to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers that the Constitution of India is secular and caters to the tremendous diversity. It is the greatness of our Founding Fathers that they kept a cool head during the 1947 Partition and decided to declare India a secular country instead of a Hindu country. This is why despite all its tremendous diversity the only policy which can work and provide for stability and progress is secularism and giving equal respect to all communities, sect, denominations, etc”
The bench however accepted that the other prayer made in the petition seeking prays for a mandamus for extension of same benefit to the other marginalized/poor people is justified and issued notice the State Government and other respondents.
The Court is set to hear the matter on 7th of May,2020.
-India Legal Bureau