The Delhi High Court bench comprising Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh., hearing a petition filed by the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyaan (DRRAA), regarding ensuring access to ration during the Covid-19 lockdown, has said that it is “disappointed” and “dismayed” at lack of compliance with its direction on distributing ration for all.
The High Court observation follows directions it gave during earlier two hearings (April 27 and May 6) regarding distribution of foodgrains during the lockdown, asking the Delhi government to ensure that all ration shops disbursing foodgrains are open during working hours from 9 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to7 pm on all seven days, and that foodgrains are also distributed to the poor, needy and marginalized non-public distribution system (PDS) residents.
It also asked the state government to monitor the distribution of foodgrains through the concerned sub-divisional magistrates (SDMs) of each district and upload the details of shop-wise disbursement of ration at the end of each day, and publicizing the compliance to its directions in the print and electronic media on a daily basis.
Asking the state government to “immediately place” on its website grievance helpline numbers, the High Court had futher said, it should also install complaint boxes at all the ration shops and non-PDS distribution centres.
During the hearing on May 18, DRRAA, represented through advocates Sanjay Parikh and Prasanna S, said that the system adopted by the government of issuing e-coupons to those who do not have ration cards was inaccessible to the most vulnerable, as it required a smart phone. They do not have access to internet, are unable to generate OTP, upload photos of the family and a copy of the aadhaar and finally to download the e-coupon, the court was told.
Further, the advocates said, the complaints helplines numbers (1967 and 1800110841) designated by the Delhi government were “inaccessible”, and that despite the orders of the court, volunteers of DRRAA had found many ration shops shut during working hours.
In violation of the Delhi High Court’s direction, no details of action taken on complaints was available in the public domain
Meanwhile, it was pointed out, the government was uploading only total number of ration cardholders/ e-coupon holders who had been distributed rations, without disclosing details of who had received, how much rations. “In violation of the court’s direction, no details of action taken on complaints was available in the public domain”, the advocates argued in the court.
The High Court said it was “disappointed and dismayed” as the state government has not complied with its directions. On the issue of ensuring rations for all those who need it, the judges commented that the e-coupon system was not appropriate as it was inaccessible for people.
Questioning how people were expected to access the system, Justice Mridual asked whether the government was providing free public wi-fi all over Delhi. He added, the court didn’t want a single person in Delhi to go hungry, directomg the government to immediately start distributing rations to needy persons.
The Court directed the secretary-cum food commissioner of the Delhi government to file a detailed compliance report regarding its directions of April 27 and May 6 within 4 days. It also directed that the government must immediately start providing grains to all those who need it and has now listed the matter to be heard on May 26.