Showing posts with label Public Interest Litigation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Public Interest Litigation. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Supreme Court seeks Union of India's Response to PIL Challenging Iron-Fortified Rice Program

Court: Supreme Court of India, New Delhi

Case No:  W.P.(C) No. 001100/2023  dated 30-09-2023   Pending- 38350/2023

Case Title: Rajesh Krishnan & Anr Vs. Union of India & Others

Date of filing: 30.09.2023


In a significant legal development, the Supreme Court has sought response of Union of India in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by concerned citizens, challenging the Government of India's iron-fortified rice program. The PIL raises critical concerns about the government's failure to adhere to their own advisories, which caution patients with Thalassemia and Sickle Cell Disease against consuming iron or recommend its use under strict medical supervision. Alarmingly, despite reaching out to various government departments and state food commissioners, the citizens received no response.

The government's iron-fortified rice program is an integral component of public safety net initiatives, including the Public Distribution System (PDS), mid-day meals, and anganwadis, providing sustenance to millions of Indians.

Underlining the gravity of the issue, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has clearly outlined in clause 7(4) of the Food Safety Act, supported by international scientific evidence, that individuals afflicted with haemoglobinopathies like Thalassemia and Sickle Cell Disease should refrain from consuming iron. Such consumption can lead to severe adverse consequences, including organ failure for those with these conditions.

However, investigations carried out by the Alliance for Holistic and Sustainable Agriculture (ASHA) and the Right to Food Campaign during fact-finding visits in two states revealed that iron-fortified rice was being distributed without due consideration, completely ignoring the necessity for medical screenings and supervision. More distressing was the revelation that individuals suffering from haemoglobinopathies were unaware of the potential harm posed by the rice. Astonishingly, state governments had not been issued any guidelines by the central government pertaining to these warnings. In addition, the rice was being distributed in both raw and cooked forms, especially in schemes such as mid-day meals, with minimal and poorly visible written or verbal warnings, often found only on the gunny bags. Shockingly, no provision for iron-free rice was made available to these vulnerable patients.

The recipients of state food schemes who are consuming this synthetic iron-fortified rice primarily consist of economically disadvantaged citizens who heavily rely on state-subsidized food. For them, iron-fortified rice has become a necessity, as they cannot afford to purchase non-fortified rice from the open market. The large-scale implementation of this program commenced before a pilot scheme in 15 states was thoroughly assessed or independently evaluated. According to government responses to Right to Information (RTI) queries, the evaluation of these pilot programs was expected to be concluded by late 2022, yet no evaluation findings have been made available to date.

In light of these pressing concerns, the PIL petitioners have made two fundamental demands. Firstly, they call upon the government to rigorously adhere to clause 7(4) of the Food Safety Act and ensure that comprehensive warnings reach consumers directly. Secondly, they insist that non-fortified rice be provided to patients with medical contraindications, safeguarding the well-being of these vulnerable individuals. The Supreme Court's directive is a significant step towards addressing these vital issues and ensuring the health and safety of those most in need.

Access the Petition here:

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Karnataka HC issues notice to Centre on a PIL challenging exclusion of disabilities as a variable from National Family Health Survey

Court: Karnataka High Court, Bangaluru

Bench: Hon'ble Chief Justice Mr. Prasanna B. Varale and Hon'ble Justice M.G.S. Kamal 

Case No.:  WP (C) 14180 of 2023

Case Title: Javed Abidi Foundation Vs. Union of India (Min. of Health & Family Welfare)

Date of Order: 04.08.2023

Brief of the case 

The petitioner Javed Abidi Foundation has sought a direction to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to include the 21 disabilities mentioned in the schedule to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPwD), 2016 as a variable in the household survey questionnaire of the NFHS-6 while pointing out that disabilities was a variable in the NFHS-5.

Quoting various media reports, the petition claimed that the disabilities were excluded from NFHS-6 on the advise of a Technical Advisory Committee citing two reasons - enumerators were not trained nor qualified to ask about and evaluate disability; and enumerating disability as a variable was a time-consuming and laborious process.

The petitioner has argued that the reasons cited to exclude disabilities are unjustifiable in the light of Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which states that it the right of persons with disabilities to be part of any data collection exercise and all data about disability should be disaggregated so that persons with disabilities can get the maximum advantage of any schemes and other programmes meant for their welfare. The exclusion also violative of the provisions of the RPwD Act, the petition has complained.

The PIL also disputes the claim of the Union Health Ministry that the disabilities has been already enumerated during the 76th round of the National Sample Survey of 2018 and there would be no change in those figures. The Ministry’s response to petitioner stating that the NFHS-5 contained questions in  the questionnaire on disabilities on the advise of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, and the primary focus of NFHS is maternal and child health and other questions with a very shorter version of the question will not be advisable.

The court passed the following order:

"The learned counsel for the petitioner invited our attention to Annexure-P1 and submits that though it is stated by respondent No.5 that it will not be able to collect accurate data on disability in its concurrent form and the primary focus of NFHS is maternal and child health, there are no grounds or reasons forthcoming as to why respondent No.5 is not in a position to collect the data on disability when such an exercise was undertaken by the very respondent in the year 2019.

Issue notice returnable within four weeks.

Sri Madhukar M. Deshpande, the learned counsel accepts notice for respondent No.1."

The PIL has made following prayers in the writ and interim relief:

Writ prayers

a) issue a writ in the nature of certiorari quashing the memorandum dated 14/06/2023 bearing reference number no.y.12011/3/2020-stats at Annexure-M is issued by the 2nd respondent stating unsustainable grounds for exclusion of disability from NFHS 6.

b) issue a writ in the nature of mandamus directing the respondents to include the 21 disabilities mentioned in the schedule to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 as a variable in the household questionnaire for the national family health survey 6 as per the petitioners and several other representations to the respondents.

c) issue a writ in the nature of mandamus directing the respondents to consider the representations of the petitioner at annexures-d, e, f, k and l and to expeditiously consider his appeal at annexure-q.

d) pass such orders (s) or issue such other writ (s). 

Interim prayer

issue orders to the respondents in the nature of directions to introduce a questionnaire on disabilities by way of addendum that is similar the questionnaire on disabilities introduced in NFHS 5 so as to include all the 21 disabilities mentioned in the schedule to the rights of persons with disabilities act, 2016 as a variable in the household questionnaire for the national family health survey 6.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Supreme Court directs appointment of independent Disability Commissioners in all states by 31 Aug 2023

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud ; Mr. Justice PS Narasimha and Mr. Justice Manoj Misra 

Case Title: Seema Girija Lal And Anr. v. Union of India And Ors. 

Case No.: Writ Petition (Civil) Diary No(s). 29329/2021 

Date of Order:  17 Jul 2023 

Previous Order: 13 Jan 2023

Next Date of Hearing: 18 Sep 2023


Please refer to the brief write up on the previous order passed by the court dated 13 Jan 2023 in this PIL seeking the formation of district-level committees to enforce the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, when the Hon'ble supreme court was pleased to issue a notice, without even admitting it or the registry allocating it a Writ petition number.  The petition stated that India’s basic infrastructure to meet the needs of its nearly 3 crore persons with disabilities is 'visibly absent', and that the top court should take judicial notice of this concern. 

The bench had then specifically passed the following order:

"We direct that notice shall be issued to Union of India and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The Ministry shall file counter affidavit within a period of a month. The affidavit shall indicate state wise the implementation. Union of India shall convene a meeting with all concerned states and state advisory boards with a view to eliciting the present status of compliance. We request Ms. Divan, ASG to assist. At this stage we're not issuing notice to state govts. Based on affidavits, we'll decide."

During the hearing on 17 July 2023, the Chief Justice expressed the concern that the current state of implementation of the RPWD Act 2016 revealed a distressing situation throughout the country. 

Pertinently, the bench noted that disability commissioners were entrusted with several statutory duties under Section 75 and Section 80G of Act. However, a report before the Court indicated that several States and Union Territories had failed to appoint such independent commissioners as required under Section 79 of the Act. And thus it direted the appointment of such commissioners by August 31, 2023.

The Court further ordered the concerned Union Ministry to coordinated with the relevant ministry of all State governments to file an updated affidavit by September 17. The States were asked to upload relevant details on the dashboard of the Central government.

The matter has now been listed for further hearing on September 18, 2023.

Read the Order dated 17 July 2023 below:

Friday, January 13, 2023

Supreme Court issued notice to Centre on a PIL seeking constitution of District Level Committee for enforcement RPWD Act

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha

Case Title: Seema Girija Lal And Anr. v. Union of India And Ors. 

Case No.: Writ Petition (Civil) Diary No(s). 29329/2021 

Date of Order: 13 Jan 2023

Next Date of Hearing: 17 July 2023


A Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) issued notice to the Union of India and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in a plea seeking enforcement of rights of persons with disabilities by constituting District Level Committees for each district to implement the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 [“RPwD Act”].

The petitioner,  a member of a group called “Together We Can” which is forum for parents, professionals, and other stakeholders working for rights of children with disabilities. 

The petition highlighted that the RPwD Act inter alia recognise the need to have a micro level selfcheck mechanism to ensure the needs of persons with disabilities are met and the Act is properly implemented at the lowest level. Section 72 of the RPwD Act envisages constitution of a ‘District-Level Committee’ [“DLC”] for each district for this purpose. These DLCs are meant to comprise of not just state officials but also respectable members of the local community. DLCs give teeth to the RPwD Act. Having a grassroot-level supervisory body like the DLC in place can be the safest way to ensure enforcement of the provisions of a statute.

The bench in its order stated –

"Petitioner has highlighted that diverse provisions of RPwD Act 2016 haven't been implemented by the States. Petitioners have placed on the record a copy of the fifth meeting of the Central advisory board of disability held on 24 June 2022 under the auspices of the Ministry of social Justice and Empowerment.. The
 minutes of the meeting indicate that as of the date of the meeting -

1. Only 10 states had constituted separate departments for dealing with entitlements of persons dealing with disabilities;
2. Only 12 states have independent commissioners;
3. The States of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and Ladakh are yet to notify rules under the statute. They have not constituted the state advisory boards.

The petitioner also submitted that Section 72 of the act which envisaged a District level Committee for each State for the purpose of ensuring that the needs of persons with disabilities are met was yet to be fully implemented. Further, though Section 101(2)(a) empowers the State governments to frame rules regarding the functions of the district level committees, without the formulation of specific rules, the committees would remain ineffective."

Accordingly, the bench issued the following direction –

"We direct that notice shall be issued to Union of India and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The Ministry shall file counter affidavit within a period of a month. The affidavit shall indicate state wise the implementation. Union of India shall convene a meeting with all concerned states and state advisory boards with a view to eliciting the present status of compliance. We request Ms. Divan, ASG to assist. At this stage we're not issuing notice to state govts. Based on affidavits, we'll decide."

Read the Copy of the order below:

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Diverse Stakeholders Move Madras High Court in support of Accesssible Low Floor Buses - say, it also helps them - not just the disabled.

Kindly refer to our post dated 22 July 2022,  26 August 2022 on the subject of procurement of low floor accesssible buses in the State of Tamilnadu. Despite the Court directions, the State has been hell bent on arguing in favour of the high floor inaccessible buses that puts a large population of persons with disabilities in the state at a disadvantage and denying them their right to equality when it comes to public transportation. The state has been trying to argue that it would buy some percentage of buses as acessible low floor misinterpreting the Law of the land and citing reasons of floods and high costs of accesssible buses. 

The accessible low floor buses are not just an issue of disabled people alone. It impacts a large number of users of public transport such as women wearing saris, children, women who are family way, people of short stature. In fact, all persons feel safe when an accessible mode of transport is provided.

To support the case of demand for mandatory low floor accessible buses, a woman with mobility impairment on both her lower limbs, a 70-year-old lawyer with 44 years of standing in the Bar, a pregnant college student and a 68-year-old retired entrepreneur have moved Madras High Court through a public interest litigation, in support of a plea to ensure that all intra-city government buses are universally accessible. The PIL plea says that senior citizens, pregnant women and vendors also find it difficult to board the government buses, hencce the state needs to be directed to only purchase accessible low floor buses.

Acting Chief Justice T. Raja and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy on Monday granted time till December 21 for the Transport Department to respond to their petitions for impleading as parties in a public interest litigation (PIL) petition preferred by cross disability rights activist Vaishnavi Jayakumar of Chennai.

The activist had challenged a tender notification issued on October 10 for procuring 1,771 fully built non-AC diesel buses including 1,170 buses with a floor height of 900 mm. She contended that the law permits procurement of only low floor buses (400 mm) or with a maximum floor height of 650 mm with ramps/kneeling system/lifts for entry.

The Transport Department had already filed a counter affidavit stating that it would not be possible to ply only low floor buses in all cities unless and until the allied infrastructure, such as good roads, was fully in place. It also asserted that no law or court order had been violated in the recent tender notification.

However, in her affidavit in support of the impleading petition, P. Kavitha, a differently abled woman, said she was dependent on a pair of crutches and calipers for commuting from one place to another and that it was virtually impossible for her to either board or get down from buses with a floor height of 900 mm.

“The concentrated weight of the calipers on my lower limbs (which is around 4 kgs) makes the process of climbing the high steep steps extremely cumbersome and time consuming. As a result, I am often at the receiving end of my co-passengers’ irritation and impatience vis-à-vis holding up the bus,” she said.

She highlighted that inaccessibility of public transport affects the freedom of movement of persons with locomotor and other disabilities. The tender notification under challenge had been issued in callous disregard of the need for accessible public transport for the differently-abled individuals, she complained.

Advocate Sudha Ramalingam too wanted to implead herself as party in the case on the ground that high floor buses were nightmare to embark and disembark not only for the differently abled but also for the elderly dependent on public transport.

She said women with infants and young kids too find it difficult to access the high floor buses and that the fruit and flower vendors too struggle to get into the buses. Many had suffered injuries on the knees and legs while accessing the buses, she lamented and said, low floor buses were a fundamental requirement and not a luxury.

Similarly, T.S. Santhakumari, a 68-year-old retired entrepreneur, supported her view and said senior citizens with knee pain could not travel in government buses due to the very high floor height. She said that low floor buses would provide the elderly people the confidence and the joy of being able to travel without much difficulty.

Yet another impleading petitioner M.K. Divyadeshna, a 7-month pregnant college student, said, she had to travel from Tiruvallur to Guindy on a daily basis to pursue her studies. Government buses were the only affordable means of travel but the risk in travelling in them, due to their inaccessible nature, was beyond contemplation, she rued.

It is interesting to note as to how the state would cotinue to ignore the needs of a vast section of society misinterpreting the mandate of the accessibility law anchored in the Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016 and Rules made thereunder.

Related News: The Hindu.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Madrash HC: M. Gnanasambandam Vs. Govt. of India | WP No. 923 of 2007 | 05 July 2022

Court:                     Madras High Court

Bench:                    Mr.Munishwar Nath Bhandari, Chief Justice and Mrs. Justice N. Mala. 

Case No.                WP No. 923 of 2007

Case Title:             M. Gnanasambandam  Vs. Union of India 

Date of Order:       05 July 2022

This Petition was filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying for a writ of Mandamus directing the respondents to take the following measures to facilitate the effective implementation of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995: 

I. To frame and notify comprehensive Rules immediately for according recognition to various types of Schemes (Educational Institutions for the Disabled) as provided under Chapter V Education under the PWD Act. 

II. To distribute scholarships to all school going children with disabilities in time. 

III. To direct the Central and State Governments to issue notifications to make schemes to provide Aids and Appliances to persons with Disabilities. 

IV. To direct the respondents to enquire into in detail from the year 2002 onwards about the alleged violations in the distributions of Aids and Appliances under ADIP Scheme as well as Inclusive Education Programme under Sarva Shiksha Abiyan and submit a Report before this Hon'ble Court. 

V. To direct the respondents to initiate necessary punitive action against those responsible for such kinds of nefarious acts and take suitable measures to prevent such malpractices in future. 

VI. To direct the respondents to make schemes providing for medical benefits, expenses and treatment for persons with Disabilities.

VII. To direct the respondents to make provisions for terminally ill and chronically sick children with disabilities as well as adult and aged persons with disabilities for providing life ling care, protection and medical treatment free of cost, irrespective of the type of disability. 

VIII. To direct the respondents to provide with appropriate social security to the destitute and abandoned children as well as adult and aged persons with disabilities, till their death, irrespective of the type of disability. 

IX. To direct the respondents to streamline the admission of persons afflicted with mental illness in appropriate Pshychiatric Rehabilitation Centres. 

X. To direct the respondents to form a Monitoring Authority or Enforcement Mechanism at the State as well as District levels which can be empowered to supervise and report to the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the State Commissioner for the Disabled about the proper implementation of the provisions of the Act in the respective States.

XI. To direct the respondents to entrust the State and District Legal Services Authority with the task of protecting the rights of persons with Disabilities. 

XII. To direct the respondents to bring all the social legislations viz., 

i. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. 

ii. The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999; and

iii. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 under one umbrella; and 

XIII. To direct the respondents to empower the State and District Legal Service Authorities to supervise the smooth functioning of the above Acts at all levels. 

The writ petition was registered as Public Interest Litigation, pursuant to the letter written by the petitioner.  Taking note of the issues raised in the petition, directions were issued by this Court while taking cognizance of the matter and sought for compliance. 

The compliance report has been submitted from time to time. Below the interim order passed on 10 December 2020. 


 After the registration of the petition, there are changes not only in terms of the position of law, but even in reference to the administrative instructions, such as Guidelines for the Government/Public transport. Rules of 2017 was introduced and Rule 15 of the Rules 2017 was applicable. The Harmonised Guidelines was also issued and thereby, there is a sea change subsequent to the registration of the case on all the issues.

In view of the above, it would be appropriate to close the writ petition with liberty to the writ petitioner to come up with a fresh writ petition if any issue remains unaddressed. There will be no order as to costs.

Read the final dated order dated 05 July 2022 embedded below: 

Monday, March 30, 2015

SC unhappy with Govt. steps for persons with mental disabilities

This update on a new PIL concerning the plight of persons with mental disabilities filed before Supreme Court from Telegraph

SC scans steps on mentally disabled

Our Legal Correspondent
New Delhi, March 26: The Supreme Court today directed the central government and all states and Union territories to explain the measures they have taken for the welfare of mentally challenged people across the country.

The court said it appeared that not much had been done so far, although the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, mandates governments to take adequate steps for their welfare.

"We are disposed to think that all the state governments have a definite role to see that the act is properly implemented and the persons under disability, which includes... mentally challenged persons, are taken care of as commanded by the act," a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and P.C. Pant said.

The court passed the order while dealing with a public interest petition that had complained about the pathetic living conditions in Asha Kiran, a government-run care home in Delhi for mentally challenged people.

The bench said it was "absolutely conscious" that this case had "arisen from an order" passed by Delhi High Court relating to the home. Yet, the "pathetic situation of this category of persons which have been highlighted before us in other states cannot be ignored", it said.

"On the contrary," the bench added, "we are obliged to think, occasion has arisen so that there can be a comprehensive study of the situation where this class of people are treated with dignity, respect and, as far as practicable, feel a part of the main stream of life."

The bench said it was "not oblivious of the fact" that in every case, it may not be possible "but there has to be an attempt to identify the possibility".

"We have been apprised at the Bar that the said effort has not been made and, if made, that is not adequate enough to meet the real challenge."

The bench noted that under Section 25 of the act, the government concerned and local authorities are duty-bound to take certain steps to prevent occurrence of disabilities and prepare a comprehensive education scheme providing for transport facilities and supply of books, besides financial incentives for parents or guardians.

"In view of the aforesaid, we direct the impleadment of the Union of India (and) all the states and Union territories. This court hopes and trusts that the Union of India and all the states and Union territories shall respond without taking recourse to any kind of subterfuge and none should take (an) adversarial position for the present cause has its own sacrosanctity," Justice Misra said in his order while fixing July 8 for the next hearing.

Source: The Telegraph

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

PIL Effect - Police Installs auditory devices at 57 traffic lights in Delhi

As a result of a PIL pending in the Delhi High Court, the Delhi Traffic Police informed the Delhi high court that they have installed 57 auditory devices at traffic signals in the capital for safety of visually impaired people.

In his reply, filed before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, deputy commissioner of traffic police also informed that 35 more locations have been identified for providing auditory signals.

"... Traffic police has provided 857 traffic signals and 401 traffic blinkers all over Delhi for ensuring smooth flow of traffic and safety of pedestrians and other road users. A total of 57 traffic signals have been provided with auditory devices for the safety of visually handicapped persons. In addition, 35 locations have also been identified for providing auditory signals," the reply filed through Rupinder Kumar, deputy commissioner of traffic police, said.

"Besides... on roads where there is continuous flow of traffic, 22 pelican traffic signals and 36 pedestrian traffic signals are functional which have the facility to provide adequate time in the signal cycle to pedestrians for safely crossing the roads. Additionally, 96 signals with pedestrian aspects have been installed and it is envisaged to provide pedestrian aspects on nearly all the signals," the official said.

The police's reply came after the court in March had issued notice to the Delhi government and civic agencies on a plea seeking direction to provide parking space to the physically challenged near the entrances of public buildings in line with the Master Plan Delhi 2021. The bench had also asked the traffic police, police commissioner and DDA to file responses.

The DCP also said that regular action is taken by traffic police to remove illegal parking. He added that the traffic police prosecuted 7,10,025 people in 2013 and 2,96,232 in 2014 till April 30. The official also stated that action is also being taken against second-hand car dealers, who are causing encroachment on the roads of the capital.

The official said that the department had launched a special drive on May 6 in coordination with the civic agencies for removal of encroachment "on specially identified 11 vital corridors in the NCT of Delhi, in which 567 encroachments have been removed, action has been taken against 180 vendors, 159 vehicles have been towed away, 1047 vehicles have been challaned and 145 notices for obstructive parking have been issued. The drive shall continue on a regular basis".

A PIL filed by social worker Vinod Kumar Bansal, through advocates Anupam Srivastava and Sitab Ali Chaudhary, had sought the court's direction to the Delhi government and civic agencies to install auditory signals at red lights on public roads for physically handicapped people. The plea further sought directions to make pavements wheelchair-friendly.

Source: Times of India