70.2 F
New York
Saturday, June 25, 2022

Supreme Court Directs Issuance Of Ration Cards, Voter IDs To Sex Workers

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the State Governments and Union Territories to commence the process of issuance of ration cards/ Voters Identity cards immediately to sex workers from the list that is maintained by NACO.

The bench of Justices LN Rao, BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna found that its directions to provide sex workers almost a decade back were not complied with. Accordingly in its order the bench noted,

“As this Court has directed the State Governments and the Union Territories to issue ration cards and identity cards to sex workers almost a decade back, there is no reason as to why such direction has not been implemented till now. Right to dignity is a Fundamental Right that is guaranteed to every citizen of this country irrespective of his/her vocation. There is a bounden duty cast on the government to provide basic amenities to the citizens of this country. The State Governments/Union Territories and other authorities are directed to commence the process of issuance of ration cards/ Voters Identity cards immediately to sex workers from the list that is maintained by NACO.”

The bench also granted the authorities the liberty to take the assistance of State AIDS Control Societies who were directed to prepare a list of sex workers after verifying the information provided to them by Community Based Organisations.

It further directed the States and Union Territories to continue the distribution of dry rations to sex workers without insisting on ration cards and other proof of residence and profession by following the procedure.

Directions were also issued to the States and UT’s to file a status report relating to the issuance of ration cards and Voters Identity cards and Aadhar Card shall be filed within a period of four weeks from the date of order and keep the name of the sex workers confidential.

Application By Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee

The directions were issued while the bench was hearing an application filed by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee seeking direction to the authorities to provide monthly dry rations and cash transfer to sex workers who were struggling to survive during the pandemic. The applicant had averred that sex workers were deprived of dry rations on the ground that they were unable to produce proof of identity.

In this regard, the Top Court had directed State Governments and Union Territories to provide dry rations to sex workers who are identified by the National Aids Control Organisation without insisting on proof of identity. The District Legal Services Authorities were also directed to assist the distribution of dry ration to sex workers without insisting on proof of identity. On October 28, 2020 it had asked the State Governments not to associate police authorities in the distribution of dry rations to the sex workers and on September 29, 2020, it had directed the State Governments and Union Territories to uniformly distribute the minimum quantity of dry rations as provided in the schemes formulated either by them or by the Central Government.

Submission Of Counsels

Senior Advocate Anand Grover appearing for the applicant had submitted that the Top Court’s directions were not being implemented. Referring to the affidavits filed by the State Governments, he submitted that issuance of ration cards to all the sex workers on the basis of their identification by NACO and Community Based Organizations would provide a solution to the problem.

Senior Advocate Jayant Bhushan, Amicus Curiae assisted by Advocate Piyush Kanti Roy had referred to some affidavits filed by the State Governments and submitted that the Top Court’s directions were not being implemented. It was also his contention that dry ration was distributed for a few months and thereafter stopped. He also referred to the affidavit filed by the State of Gujarat to submit that 12,291 sex workers out of the 24,579 sex workers registered with NACO were not willing to avail the benefits of the schemes and thus submitted that the matter needed to be enquired into.

Background

On July 19, 2011, had appointed a Committee to advise on issues relating to the prevention of trafficking, rehabilitation of sex workers who wish to quit sex work and the conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity in accordance with Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

It further said that based on the interim reports filed by the Committee, the Top Court had passed various orders issuing directions to the Central Government and the State Governments to:

(a) seek concrete information from the States about whether sex workers have been offered alternative livelihood, if they intended rehabilitation.

(b) All State Legal Services Authorities were directed to set up a helpline number for sex workers in order to provide them with free legal assistance.

(c) Directions to the Central Government to broaden the scope of their schemes meant for rescued victims of trafficking so as to include sex workers who sought rehabilitation.

(d) to facilitate sex workers access to Voter Identity cards, ration cards, the opening of bank accounts etc. relaxing the rules on verification of residential addresses and

(e) to provide a range of facilities including crèche, daycare centres and night care centres for children of sex workers and protecting their Right to Education.

Considering that the recommendations of the Committee were placed on record on September 14, 2016 and that the Committee recommended amendments in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, the bench said that, “We have been informed that the amendments that were suggested by the Committee are under active consideration for a comprehensive law to be made by the Parliament.”

Recommendations Made By The Committee

The Committee had submitted an interim report on September 12, 2011 in which some of the recommendations were:

  • Recognition of the legal status of the sex workers through official documents such as Voters Identity Card, Ration Card, Pan card etc
  • Sex worker who is a citizen of this country should not be denied a voter identification card Admission of their children to government recognized schools along with the benefits of Ujjawala scheme of the Central Government to be extended to the sex workers

The panel had also suggested for state Governments and local authorities to issue ration cards to sex workers by relaxing the rigours of existing rules as to verification of address without reference to their profession. On September 15, 2011, the Court had directed the Central Government and the State Governments to implement the suggestions made by the Committee in relation to issuance of ration cards and voter identity cards.

Case Title: Budhadev Karmaskar v State of West Bengal| Criminal Appeal No(s).135/2010

Click Here To Read/Download Order

Source

Related Articles

Latest Articles