Ration cards cancellation: SC asks TS to conduct field verification

The bench was hearing a special leave petition filed by social activist SQ Masood challenging the Telangana High Court's refusal to entertain his PIL against the cancellation of ration cards.

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  28 April 2022 3:40 AM GMT
Ration cards cancellation: SC asks TS to conduct field verification

New Delhi: The Supreme Court, on Wednesday directed the Telangana government to conduct field verification of all the ration cards that were canceled pursuant to the notification issued by the central government in 2016.

The court also directed Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar to file an affidavit about the steps taken before the cancellation of rations cards.

"We direct the Telangana state to conduct verification of all the ration cards canceled under the directive issued by Central Government in 2016, We are informed there are 17 parameters taken into account before cancellation of ration cards. The authorities are directed to conduct field verification of all the cards and also deal with representation preferred by any aggrieved cardholder whose card has been canceled expeditiously," the court said

The bench was hearing a special leave petition filed by social activist SQ Masood challenging the Telangana High Court's refusal to entertain his PIL against the cancellation of ration cards. The High Court said that no relief need be granted as the lockdown has been lifted. The Supreme Court commented that the High Court's order was "cryptic".

A Bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai also directed the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit apprising the Bench about the steps taken before canceling the ration cards.

"We deem it proper, an affidavit shall be filed by the Chief Secretary informing this Court as to the steps taken before cancellation of the ration cards in the State of Telangana."

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner, informed the Bench that the ration cards were canceled without notice; without field verification, and based on a computer algorithm. He expressed concern that the same was contrary to the notification which insisted on conducting ground verification before cancellation of ration cards.

He further submitted that the card-holders whose ration cards were canceled were asked to apply for fresh cards and their applications are pending for the past 2 3 years before the concerned authority.

Justice Rao enquired about the defence taken by the State in this regard. Gonsalves responded that they have justified the cancellation based on an algorithm and 17 parameters set out by them facilitating the cancellations.

"They have an algorithm and 17 parameters like bogus cards, did not make a declaration, linkage of Aadhaar card and ration card was faulty, etc," he said.

He asserted that authorities do not have any pointed response for specific cases of cancellation - "They don't say why a particular card was canceled." Justice Rao asked him, "How many canceled?"

He informed the Bench that 21.94 lakh cards were canceled. He added that all such cards were given to the respective cardholders after due verification by the authority. He was perturbed that now the cards have been canceled even without allowing the card-holders to be heard. He stated, - "It is an act of extreme cruelty. These are very poor families. Suddenly they are rendered without cards."

He pointed out that an RTI Application was filed, wherein the Central Government had stated that almost 4 crore ration cards were canceled across several States. Telangana was one of these States. A protest was lodged by the petitioner against the cancellation on the ground of violation of the principles of natural justice. Gonsalves highlighted that the State of Telangana responded stating that there was no requirement under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFS Act) to serve notice before canceling ration cards.

Further, the Bench was apprised that the primary reason for the cancellation was non linkage with the Aadhaar card. He argued that the State Government had made Aadhaar mandatory for availing the benefits of the Public Distribution System in violation of the judgment of the Apex Court in K. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India. Gonsalves contended that if the benefit accrues from a statutory provision to avail the same Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory

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