While hearing a plea seeking directions to the Centre, States, and Union Territories (UTs) to devise a system for community kitchens to address hunger and malnutrition, a bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli heard the matter.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court was hearing a petition to devise a system for community kitchens to address hunger and malnutrition. The Supreme Court today ordered the Union government to coordinate with states to collect data on starvation fatalities, hunger, and malnutrition.

Court Room Exchanges:

CJI Ramana:

“So there are no starvation deaths in the country?”

The AG then mentioned a recent case in Tamil Nadu in which a 5-year-old was accused of dying of malnutrition due to a lack of food in his stomach.

The CJI then pointed out:

“…National Family Health Survey (2010-2013) has been filed published by Centre and cause of death says malnutrition is 25 per cent for males and 30 per cent for females…Why don’t you produce before us some report by Government of India? Is there any survey report indicating position on starvation death?”

The Court ultimately decided not to frame the guidelines today, instead decided to wait for the Centre to give some statistics on starvation.

AG Venugopal said:

“…affidavit says that no states has reported such deaths, but you must also look at the stand of states.”

CJI Ramana went on to say that states like Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Punjab, and West Bengal maintain community kitchens but rely on the Union government for funding.

When the Attorney General stated that the Centre had implemented 130 hunger-fighting initiatives totaling lakhs of rupees, the Court responded,

“Government of India cannot take this as an adversarial litigation. You must have a practical approach like Hare Ram Hare Krishna or Akshayapatra.”

The Attorney General insisted that the states identify the problem and that each panchayat establish a mechanism in the area before the Centre could award funding.

CJI Ramana told the AG towards the end of the case:

“We are not on starvation, or people dying of hunger. Our focus is on that people should not suffer from hunger. You have to discuss with your officers to come up with a nodal scheme.”

After two weeks, the matter will be heard, at which time the states will be asked to file supplementary affidavits disclosing information on malnutrition, hunger, and other problems.

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