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The Supreme Court on Monday imposed additional costs of Rs. 5 lakh each on the states of Maharashtra, Delhi, Sikkim, Orissa, Goa and the Union Territory of Ladakh for not filing their counter affidavits in the plea seeking the establishment of pan-India community kitchens.
Further, all applications seeking the waiver of costs earlier imposed, except for the plea by the State of Kerala, have been dismissed. Appearing for Kerala, counsel G Prakash informed the Bench of personal difficulties that prevented the filing of the affidavit. In response, the Court exempted him from paying costs and directed that Kerala's counter be filed within a week.
On February 10, the Bench headed by Justice NV Ramana had already ordered that Rs 1 lakh costs be imposed on various states that failed to respond in the matter, provided that a reply is filed within 24 hours of the order. Rs 5 lakh costs were directed to be imposed on the states that fail to respond even after the passage of 24 hours.
During the course of hearing on Monday, the counsel for Manipur informed that he could not file the counter affidavit since he was appointed as standing counsel only recently following the demise of the erstwhile counsel, L Roshmani. The Court declined from imposing additional costs, and directed him "to file the counter affidavit during the course of the day along with costs of Rs.1,00,000/- (Rupees one lakh)."
Today, Attorney General KK Venugopal sought liberty to file an additional counter in the matter for the Union of India. This, after taking into account the stands of the various respondents, including government ministries.
The case has been tentatively listed to be taken up next for April 8. Advocates Ashima Mandla, Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, Mandakini Singh, Ibad Mushtaq and Aditi Gupta appeared for the petitioners.
The main petition has made the following prayers, citing the acute problem of malnutrition and starvation deaths that continue to plague India, in violation of the Right to Food and despite various food security schemes introduced by the government:
Direct the Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories to formulate a scheme for the implementation of community kitchens and to further ensure that no person should sleep on an empty stomach.
Direct the National Legal Services Authority to formulate a scheme to further the provisions of Article 51A of the Constitution of India in order to mitigate deaths resulting from hunger, malnutrition and starvation.
Direct the Central Government to create a national food grid for those persons beyond the scope of the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS).
The petitioners go on to argue that state-funded community kitchens may be a possible way to resolve the food accessibility crisis. In this regard, successful models of community kitchens in various states in India as well as similar models in countries like US, UK and Canada have been cited.
Referring to the successes of these models, the petitioners further argue that community kitchens would not only ameliorate the hunger crisis in India, but also serve to provide employment.
In this backdrop, the petitioners have sought the Supreme Court’s intervention to facilitate the setting up of country-wide community kitchens to supplement existing food security schemes.
The petitioners have also suggested that such kitchens be managed with state funding or as a public-private partnership activity with funding as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.
[Read the Order]