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The Supreme Court today disposed of a plea filed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh seeking strict implementation of National Food Security Act, 2013 for the benefit of migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Court observed that petitions seeking relief with respect to COVID-19 ought to be filed only after a representation is made to the government.
In his plea filed through Advocate Srishti Agnihotri, Ramesh prayed for the strict implementation of the Act so that grains are provided during the lockdown without migrant workers and others having to produce their ration cards.
Senior Advocate Salman Khurshid, arguing for Ramesh, stated that the plea was filed with the intention to help the government and that no "representation was yet made to the Union of India."
To this Justice Kaul observed,
"This is the problem. We are finding people approaching us under Article 32 without making a representation to the government. Such petitions should be preceded by some initiative."
Subsequent to observing the above, the three-judge Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and BR Gavai allowed Khurshid to withdraw the petition and approach authorities to make a detailed representation. The Court states,
"Since grievances raised have not been brought to the government's notice, the petition is withdrawn and a detailed representation to government be made which would be duly attended to."
During today's hearing, Khurshid stated before the Court that migrant workers were facing issues with ration cards. He submitted,
"Issue is people have moved to villages from their places of work. They have ration cards of the local area where they worked and these are not accepted in areas where they have returned. Some do not have rations cards at all. Judgment in the Swaraj Abhiyan case said ration cards should not be necessary in such circumstances. Government has a one nation one ration card scheme, but that will take time and for COVID19 we need a policy."
Responding to this, Justice Bhushan said,
"Somebody not in his local place may have difficulty, but for those who have returned, the state will take care."
Justice Kaul noted such concerns can be raised before Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the government to consider.
"Hopefully after the third phase, things will start looking up," remarked Justice Kaul.