SC bench observes apathy for legal provisions under NFSA by state govts.
Will you go and make complaints to the same public official against whom you have a grievance? Of course not. However, in a judgement dated 21 July, 2017 by a two-judge Supreme Court (SC) bench, it has been observed that officers in charge of implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), were also designated as District Grievance Redressal Officers (DGROs) by several state governments.
Section 15 of NFSA
The SC bench comprising Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice NV Ramana asked for appointment details of independent DGROs from the concerned Chief Secretaries of various states as per Section 15 of the NFSA, that is to say persons independent of those against whom complaints are made and persons who are not subordinate to the officers against whom complaints are made.
Since no rules had been framed as per Section 15 of the NFSA for the appointment or designation of the DGRO nor had any qualifications been prescribed for the appointment of such officers, Justice Madan B Lokur in his judgement [pertaining to the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 857/2015] asked the Union Government to frame model rules so as to make things easier for the state governments and also to give some teeth to the legislation that was enacted by the Parliament.
It may be recalled that Section 15 of the NFSA mandates the state government to appoint or designate, for each district, an officer to be the DGRO for expeditious and effective redressal of grievances of aggrieved persons in matters relating to the distribution of entitled foodgrains or meals under the Act and also to enforce entitlements.
Section 14 of NFSA
Although the provision of Section 14 of the NFSA requires that every state government shall put in place an internal grievance redressal mechanism, authorities and bodies mandated to be set up under the said Act have not yet been made functional in several states, observed the SC bench.
Section 16 of NFSA
Section 16 of the NFSA mandates the state government to constitute a State Food Commission (SFC) for the monitoring and review of the implementation of NFSA. However, it was found by the two-judge SC bench that some state governments had appointed the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (CDRC) constituted under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act (1986) as the SFC under Section 16 of the NFSA.
In his order, Justice Lokur said that although the CDRC performs judicial or quasi-judicial functions, in many states they were asked to perform administrative and quasi-judicial functions as a SFC under the NFSA. Although several state governments framed necessary rules and the Central Government had prepared and circulated model rules to state governments, it came to the notice of SC bench that as on 22 March, 2017 SFC was not constituted in 10 states i.e. Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana, and Chhattisgarh. Although the SFC had been constituted in Haryana, it was not provided with any infrastructure, office space or budget.
On 26 April, 2017, the SC bench, however, was informed by concerned Chief Secretaries of various states that barring 4 states (namely Telengana, Gujarat, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh), appointments have not been made for SFC in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. In case of Maharashtra, appointments have been made but no member belonging to any Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe has been appointed. In case of Bihar, appointments have been made but there are still two vacancies. Although in Karnataka SFC has been constituted and established, appointments have not yet been made. In case of Haryana, the SFC matter is pending in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Section 28 of NFSA
Although conducting of periodic social audit by local authority, or any other authority or body, as may be authorized by the state government, is mandated as per Section 28 of the NFSA, it has not been put into practice in several states, observed the SC bench. The status of implementation of social audit and other provisions under the NFSA could be checked from the table 1.
Table 1: Implementation status of various provisions under the NFSA
Source: Supreme Court judgement on the writ petition (Civil) No. 857 of 2015, dated 21 July, 2017, please click here to access
Section 29 of NFSA
Section 29 of the NFSA requires setting up of Vigilance Committees for ensuring transparency and proper functioning of the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) and accountability of the functionaries in such a system. The SC bench said that the fact that Vigilance Committees have not been set up in spite of the passage of four years after the enactment of the NFSA is yet another indication of the lack of concern shown by the state governments and the Union Territories (UTs) to respect a legislation, which was enacted by the Parliament.
Section 40 of NFSA
Both Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice NV Ramana have said that the state governments/ UT administrations may finalize their own rules and notify the same in consultation with their respective state legal departments, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 40 of the NFSA.
A press release from the Right to Food Campaign dated 4 August, 2017 says that the next hearing of the above-mentioned case is on 9 August, 2017 when the SC bench will take up other pending issues related to MGNREGA, crop insurance etc.
It may be noted that the public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by the organisation Swaraj Abhiyan in December, 2015 in order to seek judicial intervention for implementation of existing programmes/ schemes by the Centre and states to combat drought.
A press meet to reveal the gaps in implementation of NFSA and delayed wage payments made under the MGNREGA (please click here to access) was also organised by civil society activists on 4 August, 2017 in New Delhi.
Supreme Court judgement on the writ petition (C) No. 857 of 2015, 21 July, 2017, please click here to access
Supreme Court judgement on the writ petition (C) No. 857 of 2015 Part-I, 11 May, 2016, please click here to access
Supreme Court judgement on the writ petition (C) No. 857 of 2015 Part-II, 13 May, 2016, please click here to access
Writ Petition (Civil) No. 857 of 2015, Swaraj Abhiyan Note before the Supreme Court, please click here to access
Supreme Court asks for constituting State Food Commission to implement NFSA, News alert from Inclusive Media for Change, dated 13 December 2016 please click here to access
Food for action: on food security in India, The Hindu, 9 August, 2017, please click here to access
Delay in compensation wrongly calculated under NREGA: Researchers -Pratap Vikram Singh, Governance Now, 4 August, 2017, please click here to read more
Centre accused of MGNREGA 'data fraud', late release of funds -Vishwadeepak, NationalHeraldIndia.com, 4 August, 2017, please click here to read more
MGNREGA compensation delayed by Centre or states in around 50% cases: study, PTI, Livemint.com, 4 August, 2017, please click here to access
Govt does not calculate 57 per cent compensation dues to MGNREGA workers: Study, The Indian Express, 5 August, 2017, please click here to access
Rural job wage delay, The Telegraph, 4 August, 2017, please click here to access
Govt may scrap PDS -Dalip Singh, Deccan Herald, 1 August, 2017, please click here to read more
Lessons from the Supreme Court on Cooperative Federalism, TheWire.in, 23 July, 2017, please click here to access
National Food Security Act not implemented as it should be: Supreme Court, PTI, The Economic Times, 21 July, 2017, please click here to access
Image Courtesy: Inclusive Media for Change/ Shambhu Ghatak