Will prove allegations of starvation deaths wrong: Govt

Ready to prove allegations of starvation death of nearly 3 crore ration cards wrong: Centre

Attorney General K K Venugopal. (DH Photo)

The Centre on Monday denied allegations of a starvation death in Jharkhand and arbitrary cancellation of nearly three crore ration cards of poor people across the country in the Supreme Court, asserting that it was ready to prove them wrong.

"Let it be put on affidavit. I will respond and show all these are wrong. It is all incorrect statistics," Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant.

The attorney general had to intervene when senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing in a PIL, alleged starvation deaths following denial of food in the absence of Aadhaar card.

Gonsalves also claimed that as many as three crore ration cards of poor people have been cancelled by authorities across the country and a 13-year-old girl had died of starvation in Jharkhand after she was denied ration on account of non-matching of Aadhaar details with her ration card.

The attorney general submitted that the Centre would file a comprehensive affidavit on the issue and was waiting for replies of state governments which failed to file the same in compliance of notices issued to them on December 9, 2019.

He said the Centre would collate the responses of states and file a response.

The PIL petitioner and the Centre made counter-charges against each other over the data on alleged cancellation of ration cards.

Gonsalves referred to the response of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan in Parliament and said that he had said 2.33 crore ration cards have been cancelled to stop leakages.

The top law officer said that the cancellation pertained to the period 2013 to 2016 and was related to ghost ration cards.

The bench ordered that it will hear the matter after four weeks and directed the states to file their responses in the meantime.

Earlier, the top court had issued notices to the state governments and had asked them to apprise it of the steps taken for implementation and putting in place the grievance redressal mechanism for ensuring food for all under the Food Security Act.

The Centre had claimed that, after investigation, it had found that the case of Jharkhand was not of starvation death as claimed by Gonsalves.

Gonsalves, however, had alleged that poor people have been denied food in absence of Aadhaar card which was against the apex court guidelines.

The Centre had referred to Section 40 of the Act that mandates every state government to have internal grievance redressal mechanism or nodal officers for effective and expeditious redressal of food grievance.

The bench was of the view that there was a need to ascertain whether the nodal officers who have to look after the grievances of people sit in the office or not as it was claimed that many of the states have not even appointed nodal officers.

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