SC asks Centre to come out with model Community Kitchen Scheme
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to come out with some policy decision with regard to implementation of the Community Kitchen Scheme by taking into consideration other similar schemes relating to the community kitchen which are already in operation in different states.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli said that a welfare state's first responsibility is to "provide food to people dying due to hunger".
"We feel that there is a need to coordinate with the state governments/union territories and their opinion should also be taken into consideration by the centre," the Bench said.
Expressing displeasure over the Centre's response on framing a pan-India policy to implement the Community Kitchen Scheme, the apex court granted it three weeks to hold a meeting with states.
The top court expressed unhappiness with the centre's affidavit as it was filed by an official of the level of an Under Secretary of the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Administration and did not divulge details about the proposed scheme and its rollout as sought.
"We direct that in future some responsible officer of the rank of Secretary shall file the affidavits in this matter," the bench said in its order.
The court was hearing a PIL seeking directions to the Centre, states and union territories to formulate a scheme for community kitchens to combat hunger and malnutrition.
"We find that the proposed Community Kitchens Scheme is still under process and they are obtaining the suggestions/views of the states/union territories in the matter. In view of the above, finally, three weeks' time from today is granted to the Union of India to come up with a model community kitchens scheme agreeable to the states/union territories. In case some of the states/union territories have any objection to the scheme to be formulated by the Union of India, we will consider the same on the next date of hearing," the bench said in its order.
It directed all the state governments and union territories to attend the meeting to be arranged/organized by the Centre and cooperate with them in coming up with the said scheme, which can be made uniformly applicable to all states and union territories.
During today's hearing, the Centre told the bench that, "Issues that are raised in the petition with regard to creating community kitchens to take care of hunger, deaths or malnutrition of children are under active consideration of the government and they are awaiting expert reports on the subject.
"We are of the considered view that until and unless the state governments are involved with regard to implementation of the scheme, it would be difficult to implement the same," the bench stated.
The plea claimed that "69 per cent of children under the age of five die every day due to hunger and malnutrition" and added, "this condition was violative of various fundamental rights, including the right to food and the life of citizens".
The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by social activists Anun Dhawan, Ishann Singh, and Kunajan Singh had sought a direction to the Centre for creating a national food grid for people falling outside the purview of the Public Distribution Scheme.
The plea referred to the state-funded community kitchens being run in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Delhi that serve meals at subsidized rates in hygienic conditions.
On February 17, 2020, the apex court had asked Delhi, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, and Goa to deposit an additional cost of Rs 10 lakh each as they failed to pay Rs 5 lakh each imposed on them earlier for failing to file an affidavit on steps being taken to formulate a scheme for community kitchens for the poor.