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SC notice to states on plea claiming starvation-related deaths

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The Supreme Court on Monday issued a fresh directive to the states to respond to public interest litigation (PIL) claiming that starvation-related deaths have taken in the country since people were denied ration cards due to Aadhaar-related problems.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde gave the directive after Attorney General K K Venugopal, who appeared for the Centre, said only three states have filed their counter-affidavit on the PIL.

The petition has been filed Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), an NGO, on behalf of mother and sister of Santhoshi, an 11-year-old girl from Simdega in Jharkhand, who allegedly died of starvation in September 2017.

The mother Koili Devi, and sister Gudiya Devi, were the petitioners along with a local social activist.

Senior Advocate and founder of HRLN, Colin Gonsalves, representing the petitioners, submitted that the Aadhaar linkage has resulted in the cancellation of three crore ration cards.

“Moreover, a recent study has shown that about 85 per cent of the ration cards were cancelled wrongly. The Aadhaar card judgment, as well as the government, do not mandate the linking of ration card to Aadhaar,” he said.

Countering Gonsalves, Venugopal argued, “Just by giving numbers in crores will not do. It should have been given in an affidavit form so that we can reply to it.”

The petitioner’s counsel, however, that the figures have already been placed on the affidavit.

The attorney general also said the court during the previous occasion had asked the states to file counter-affidavits regarding the implementation of the grievance system, but on three states responded.

On December 9 last year, a bench headed by Chief Justice Bobde had sought the response from the states on whether or not people were being deprived of the ration on the ground that they did not have Aadhaar cards.

In the order, Justice Bobde had said, “I was a member of the bench (which decided the Aadhaar case). The verdict in this case clearly mentioned that people cannot be denied services for not having Aadhaar card. We want to appoint a high-powered committee to probe into the allegations that people in many states were being denied ration for not possessing Aadhaar card.”

Appearing on behalf of the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had then conveyed to the court that reports suggested that the deaths were not due to starvation. “No one was denied food because of lacking Aadhaar card,” he had said.

Gonsalves had argued, “In many states, notifications state that people without Aadhaar card cannot be denied services, but when the trials go to the PDS centres, they do not get their ration supplies.”

After hearing the two sides today, the bench, which also comprised Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, issued the fresh directive to the state

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