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Provide a comprehensive plan for supply of food to needy people: Karnataka HC directs State Government

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Karnataka High Court on Monday while addressing Multiple Writ Petitions has asked the State Government to respond to the subject of food supply to the needy people, poor people, daily wage workers, people residing on streets, railway platforms, bus stands etc. by producing comprehensive plan.

The writ petitions were filed for dealing with the pandemic of Novel Corona Virus in the State of Karnataka before the Hon’ble, Chief Justice. Abhay S. Oka and Hon’ble, Mr. Justice. B.V. Nagarathna, High Court of Karnataka.

Hon’ble Judges of the Karnataka High Court made an appeal to the people at large to not file more Public Interest Litigations as it would only leads to the multiplication of litigations on the similar issues which will be addressed in the present petitions. The court has asked the other people to contact the Bar members who are already appearing in the aforesaid matters so that other issues can be raised effectively in the next date of hearing by them.

On allegations made against the police that they are indulging in indiscriminate lathi charge against the persons who are found on the streets, the Advocate General and Additional Government Advocate presented before the court, the direction/guidelines issued by the Commissioner of Police of the City of Bengaluru calling upon the police to show restraint on which court further has asked Director General and Inspector General of Police of the State to issue similar guidelines/instructions to the police personnel all over the State. It is a responsibility of citizens to cooperate with the administration and the police in order to implement effectively the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Central Government dated 24th March 2020 and the orders issued by the Government of Karnataka from time to time.

The court also addresses the issue of decongestion of jails in the light of the directions issued by the Apex Court in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.1/2020 on 23rd March 2020. Similarly, the court stated that for the State of Karnataka, the meeting was held by the committee headed by the Executive Chairman of the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority in which various directions have been issued for implementation of the directions issued by the Apex Court. “The exercise of identification of prisoners who have been convicted for a period of seven years or less for release on parole has also been undertaken” concluded on the said issue by the court.”

After the release of prisoners on parole or bail, the court has asked Advocate General to make sure that the said prisoners be safely reach to their respective houses and not stay on the streets. Also, this exercise of releasing prisoners should be done after due consent of the concerned prisoner. This was made bear in mind of the concerned authorities that while the state government exercises the power to grant of parole, they are implementing the directions issued by the Apex Court under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. It was asked by the court to the Additional Government Advocate to report compliance in the next date of hearing in the context of the object of the order of the Apex Court of decongestion of prisons.

After the orders of shutting down of angadwadis, it was asked from the State Government to inform the court that in what manner now the supply of food to the mal-nutritioned children, adolescent girls and pregnant women of the angadwadis will continue along with the report on mid-day meals which was provided to the childrens before the schools in the state were ordered to be closed.

The court relied on the direction of the Apex Court in the case of “Swaraj Abhiyan vs Union of India & Ors” where the state government will take a decision on applying the directions contained in the paragraph 128.4 i.e “the State Government will have to provide ration to the citizens on production of identity proof and it is applicable to a situation where there is a drought”. of the decision of the Apex Court. Furthermore, the court asked the State Government to directs the Gram Panchayats to take care of food security of the citizens residing within its jurisdiction. The Learned Advocate General of State has pointed out before Hon’ble Judges the facility of Indira Canteens which is available in the state on which the court replied that the facility is available only in urban areas and there are 27000 villages and if the state is going to supply the cooked food through Indira Canteens then it will lead to mass gathering of the people in Indira Canteens which may result in community spreading of the disease and also directed the State Government to come up on the next date with the comprehensive plan on supply of food to the needy people, poor people, daily wage workers, people residing on the streets, railway platforms, bus stands etc.

The issue of migrants was left out by the court by providing the reason that, “we are not dealing with the said issue as we are informed that the Apex Court is dealing with the issue”.

In continuation, the court directed BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) to ensure that the safety equipment as stated in their response is provided to all the “Pourakarmikas” (Civic Workers) working under BBMP.

The court addressed multiple issues regarding food security of “Pourakarmikas”, their long working hours, changing rooms, toilets, washroom and the issue of providing transport facilities as all categories of public transport have been stopped whereby the court stated that as far as BBMP is concerned, as per the request made by the Union, allowance of Rs.100/- per day is being provided and also directed that the state will have to respond by taking special measures on this aspect as apprehension is that “Pourakarmikas” will be affected by infection with regards to the collection waste/garbage from the houses where persons have been subjected to home quarantine. The state must provide safety equipment to every worker of BBMP along with the appropriate transport facilities, morning breakfast at Mustering Centres and their duty hours will now be restricted from 6.30 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. in the present day situation. as directed by the court.

On availability of number of Laboratories for testing Coronavirus, providing private equipments to doctors, nurses and other staff members of private hospitals and private clinics, availability of Primary Health Centres, availability of beds across the State, availability of ventilators, providing food to stray animals, stray dogs as the owners are finding it difficult to provide food as food shops have been ordered to be closed, the court seeks response from the state government on the next day of hearing. Thereafter, the court suggested the state government to provides a portal on its website with a request to all NGOs to upload information about the nature of work they are doing and the geographical area of their work. While referring to the order of the central government that all religious congregations are prohibited, the court asked the Wakf Board to take note of the said order of the central government to control large gathering at the time of prayers.

The court concluded that, “We make it clear that the order of the Central Government dated 29th March 2020 will have to be implemented in its true letter and spirit.”

The court will hear the matter again on 3rd April 2020.

-India Legal Bureau

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