The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought reply from Centre and states, on a plea alleging cancellation of nearly four crore ration cards, in the absence of linkages with the Aadhaar card.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said: "The matter is too serious. We have to hear it."
The observation came on a plea filed by Koili Devi, mother of an 11-year-old girl, who allegedly died of starvation on September 28, 2017. The top court noted that this matter should not be treated as adversarial.
"Insistence on Aadhar and biometric authentication had led to the cancellation of nearly 4 crore ration cards in the country according to the Union of India. The Union of India casually gives an explanation that these cancelled cards were bogus," said the plea.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing the petitioner, said the matter deals with a larger issue. The bench told him that the relief sought is very omnibus and widened the scope of the matter.
Gonsalves argued that more than three crore ration cards were cancelled at central level, and as many as 10 to 15 lakh cards are cancelled at each state level. "The real reason is that the technological system based on iris identification, thumb prints, possession of Aadhar, functioning of the Internet in rural and remote areas etc. led to large scale cancellation of ration cards without notice to the family concerned," the plea argued.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, representing the Union government, termed the plea as misconceived.
Lekhi contended there was grievance redressal mechanism under the Food Security Act and if Aadhaar is not available alternate documents can be submitted. "We have clearly said Aadhaar or no Aadhaar, nobody will be denied right to food," submitted Lekhi.
The court issued notice to the Centre and sought its reply within four weeks in the petition pending since 2018. Gonsalves cited situations where fingerprints or iris scanner did not work in tribal areas.
"Not a single State has appointed Independent Nodal Officers under section 14 or District Grievance Redressal Officer under section 15. All the States have mechanically granted additional designations to existing officers. In many cases the officers given additional designations are from the Food Supply Department and they are the main persons responsible for corruption in the food distribution system," added the plea
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