Court directs state govt to submit affidavit pertaining to distribution of essential commodities

Court directs state govt to submit affidavit pertaining to distribution of essential commodities

TMB Report

IMPHAL: The High Court of Manipur has issued notice to the state government to submit affidavits regarding its measures to ensure proper distribution of essential commodities to the general public who are passing through a hard life due to the prolonged lockdown by May 4, 2020.

The court also sought comments/views and suggestions from the people so as to enable the court to decide the issues involved in distribution of PDS rice effectively. The comments/views and suggestions can be sent by the general public to the Registrar General, High Court of Manipur through Whatsapp-9436204458 or or on or before May 4. While sending comments/ views and suggestions, the individual must disclose his/ her identity, in the sense that he/she must give his/her name, age, fathers name, address etc.

Registrar general, High Court of Manipur issued a notice to this effect on Friday.

A double bench of Manipur High Court comprising of Justice Lanusungkum Jamir and Justice Kh Nobin Singh issued the notice to the state Government based on a PIL no 11 of 2020 filed by Human Rights Alert against the state Government and four other respondents. The court heard the PIL on Friday. 

The petitioners submitted that the Chief Minister, Manipur had announced that PDS rice tor the month of April, 2020 be distributed free of cost by March, 2020 and in addition thereto, it was further announced that the State quota of PDS for three months should also be distributed considering the hardship faced by the people due to the ongoing lockdown. However, on the basis of the information collected by the petitioners, the distribution of the essential commodities has not been properly monitored and adequately distributed with the result that some of the poor, students, children, informal sector workers, non-card holders of NFSA and economically weaker sections of the society have been left out from the said distribution. Accordingly, the petitioners sought for issuance of a writ of mandamus to the state Government to ensure proper distribution of the essential commodities and also to ensure that relief for essential commodities reaches the entire population including the persons as aforesaid.

The announcement made by the Chief Minister, Manipur as a policy decision is highly commendable and appreciable. But mere announcement of a policy decision is not enough and it should be accompanied by norms/ guidelines to be followed by all concerned to implement it fully. Such guidelines must contain details as to how, where and when the PDS items shall be distributed and above all it should specify who should distribute them, the petitioners submitted.

From the PIL, the following issues inter-alia, have emerged and arisen for consideration by the court. (a)Who is authorized in law to distribute the PDS items including rice?, (b)Whether the PDS rice of equal quantity has been distributed to all who are at present, residing in Manipur as announced by the Chief Minister, Manipur?, (c) If the answer to issue (b) above is in the affirmative, what are the materials, documents available with the State Government to prove it?, (d) If the answer to issue (b) above, is in the negative, who is responsible for it and has any action been taken by the State Government against him/ her after an enquiry being held in this regard? (e) Is there any mechanism to regulate and monitor the distribution of PDS items including rice? (f) Is there any window for ventilation of grievance for non-availability of PDS items including rice by the general public during the ongoing lockdown either on phone or through email or WhatsApp? (g) Is there any mechanism to entertain and resolve any issue raised by the general public in time when PDS items including rice are not received by them?

The court, having felt the urgency involved in the matter, fixed May 4 for further proceedings.

The Registrar General was directed to take appropriate steps to ensure that the notice is published in 4 (four) local newspapers (two in English and two in vernacular) for two consecutive days latest by April 26, 2020.

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