Right to Food Campaign

Legal Action: Supreme Court Orders


The 'Right to Food' petition| Interim orders| Commissioners of the Supreme Court

Supreme Court hearings on the right to food (PUCL vs Union of India and others, Civil Writ Petition 196 of 2001) have been held at regular intervals since April 2001. Though the judgement is still awaited, interim orders have been passed from time to time. On this page you will find the text of these orders, accompanied in many cases by informal summaries. For a user-friendly introduction to the right to food case and the Supreme Court orders, see Supreme Court Orders on the Right to Food: A Tool for Action.

Order of 10 January 2008 [top]

An order directing acceptance of the Wadhwa Commission Report on the functioning of Public Distribution System. The order also directs the Commission to extend its exercise through the entire country, and submit a report within six months.

Order of 11 November 2007 [top]

An order on the National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS) and Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). The order directs the Government of India and State Governments to continue implementation of the NMBS and ensure that pregnant women below the poverty line get cash assistance 8-12 weeks prior to the delivery of their child.

Order of 1 February 2007 [top]

An order on the National Maternity Benefit Scheme (in short the 'NMBS') and Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). The order directs states to file responses as to why there has been such dismal inaction in implementation of these schemes, and directs the Central Government to propose better ways to monitor and coordinate these schemes.

Order of 13 December 2006 [top]

relevant extracts| key directions

An order on the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), ordering, amongst other things, that

  • Government of India shall sanction and operationalize a minimum of 14 lakh AWCs in a phased and even manner starting forthwith and ending December 2008. In doing so, the Central Government shall identify SC and ST hamlets/habitations for AWCs on a priority basis.
  • Government of India shall ensure that population norms for opening of AWCs must not be revised upward under any circumstances. While maintaining the upper limit of one AWC per 1000 population, the minimum limit for opening of a new AWC is a population of 300 may be kept in view. Further, rural communities and slum dwellers should be entitled to an "Anganwadi on demand" (not later than three months) from the date of demand in cases where a settlement has at least 40 children under six but no Anganwadi.
  • The universalisation of the ICDS involves extending all ICDS services (Supplementary nutrition, growth monitoring, nutrition and health education, immunization, referral and pre-school education) to every child under the age of 6, all pregnant women and lactating mothers and all adolescent girls.

The order holds the Chief Secretaries of the different States and Union Territories responsible for the proper implementation of the ICDS.

Order of 12 July 2006 [top]

A committee headed by Justice Wadhwa, ex-Supreme Court Judge has been formed to go into various issues relating to the Public Distribution System (PDS). The committee will be assisted by the Commissioner, Dr. N C Saxena.

Order of 14 March 2006 [top]

An order on 'Below Poverty Line' (BPL) status in the Public Distribution System (PDS).

Order of 9 May 2005 [top]

This order discusses a proposal to modify the National Maternity Benefit Scheme. It also asks the State Governments to respond to suggestions and complaints on the Public Distribution System made by the Commissioner's office.

Order of 7 October 2004 [top]

This order is primarily on the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). The order discusses measures such as increasing the number of anganwadis from six lakhs to fourteen lakhs, imcreasing the norms for supplementary nutrition, abolition of contractors in provision of food, provision of detailed information on ICDS in the website and ensuring full utilisationof available finances.

Order of 29 April 2004 [top]

The court expressed concern that all children should be covered by the ICDS programme. The Government of India has been directed to provide a plan of action to expand the number of anganwadis to cover all settlements, latest by July. All states have been directed to file a report on eligible number of children vis-a-vis number covered under the ICDS programme.

Order of 27 April 2004 [top]

No scheme covered in the previous orders can be discontinued without the prior permission of the court. The court expressed concern that children are not being adequately covered in the ICDS scheme.

Order of 20 April 2004 [top]

  • Mid-day meals: The court directed that all states have to start implementing the mid-day meal scheme latest by Sept 1, 2004. Centre was directed to make financial provisions for mid-day meal infrastructure, and also reply to Abhijit Sen Committee's suggestion that centre share a part of conversion costs. GoI should also state when it is planning to implement the Prime Minister's announcement to extend mid-day meals upto class 10.

    Dalits to be given preferrence in appointment of cooks and helpers and mid-day meals shall be provided in summer in drought affected states.

  • Employment: Allocation for SGRY to stand doubled. All documents pertaining to employment programmes shall be available for public scrutiny, and the price of these documents shall be no greater than cost of providing copies. Minimum wages should be paid in the works and use of labour-displacing machinery to be stopped.

    Incase of financial difficulty the states can approach the centre for permission to pay 100 % wages in grain.

  • Antyodaya: BPL criterion should not be used in selection of Antyodaya beneficiaries. States have been directed to issue AAY cards to all primitive tribes immediately.

Order of 30 January 2004 [top]

Adjourned for a later date.

Order of 12 December 2003 [top]

The matter was adjourned to Jan 30, 2004

Order of 19 August 2003 [top]

In this hearing, the bench asked the petitioner to meet representatives of GoI to discuss the fourth report submitted by the commissioners. The parties were asked to report back to the court in five weeks with the results of the meeting.

Order of 2 May 2003 [top]

A summary of this order is available here.

  • SGRY scheme to be doubled for an interim period of three months (May - July)
  • Famine codes will be binding in the months of May, June and July. However, if better measures are incorporated in other schemes, these may be implemented instead.
  • Government of India to clarify its response to the Abhijit Sen Committee report by August 8, 2003.
  • Government of India has to evolve a system of ensuring that all poor families are identified as BPL.
  • Licences of ration shop dealers to be cancelled if they (i) do not open on time, (ii) overcharge, (iii) retain ration cards, (iv) make false entries in BPL cards, or (v) engage in black marketing.
  • BPL households are to be permitted to buy grain in instalments.
  • The following groups to be given Antyodaya cards:
    (1) Aged, infirm, disabled, destitute men and women, pregnant and lactating destitute women;
    (2) widows and other single women with no regular support;
    (3) old persons (aged 60 or above) with no regular support and no assured means of subsistence;
    (4) households with a disabled adult and no assured means of subsistence;
    (5) households where due to old age, lack of physical or mental fitness, social customs, need to care for a disabled, or other reasons, no adult member is available to engage in gainful employment outside the house; and
    (6) primitive tribes.
  • States that have not implemented the order on mid-day meal scheme to immediately start providing mid-day meals in at least 25 % of the districts (with priority to poorest districts).

Order of 29 October 2002 [top]

  • The hearing on 29th October, 02 resulted in the clarification of some points pertaining to the previous orders. The Supreme Court reaffirmed the previous orders and issued some of the following broad points as the order.
  • Chief Secretaries will be held responsible if starvation deaths are established in their states.
  • Each state will appoint one officer as an assistant to the commissioner.
  • One last chance is given to the states to take up the publicity of the orders and translation them

Order of 8 May 2002 [top]

  • The gram panchayats shall frame employment generation proposals in accordance with the SGRY guidelines. These proposals shall be approved and sanctioned by the Gram Panchayats and the work started expeditiously.
  • The respondents shall focus the SGRY programme towards agricultural wage earners, non-agricultural unskilled wage earners, marginal farmers and in particular, SC and ST persons whose wage income constitutes a reasonable proportion of their household income and to give priority to them in employment, and within this section shall give priority to women.
  • GoI shall release money entitlements under the different employment generation schemes to each State on schedule, provided that utilisation certificates have been provided by the states certifying that the funds have been used for the specified purpose.
  • The gram sabhas are entitled to conduct Social Audits into all Food/ Employment schemes.
  • Gram Sabhas are entitled to monitor the implementation of the various schemes and have access to relevant information.
  • In view of the grievance that the identification of BPL families is not being done properly the central... and the state governments are directed to clarify the issue and work out a policy for...
  • The respondents shall ensure that rations shops remain open throughout the months during fixed hours the details of which will be displayed on the notice board.
  • Dr. N C Saxena and Mr S R Sankaran are appointed as commissioners of the Court to redress complaints that have not been resolved by the Collectors and the Chief Secretary. They can take the help of NGOs and individuals to help them monitor the implementation of the court's orders.

Order of 28 November 2001 [top]

  • Public Distribution System
    • It is the case of the Union of India that there has been full compliance with regard to the allotment of foodgrain in relation to the TPDS. However, if any of the States gives a specific instance of non-compliance, the Union of India will do the needful within the framework of the Scheme.
    • The States are directed to complete the identification of BPL families, issuing of cards and commencement of distribution of 25 kgs. grain per family per month.
    • The Delhi Govt. will ensure that TPDS application forms are freely available and are given and received free of charge and there is an effective mechanism in place to ensure speedy and effective redressal of grievances
  • Antyodaya Anna Yojana
    • It is the case of the Union of India that there has been full compliance with regard to the allotment of foodgrain in relation to Antyodaya Anna Yojana. However, if any of the States gives a specific instance of non-compliance, the Union of India will do the needful within the framework of the Scheme
    • We direct the States and the Union Territories to complete identification of beneficiaries, issuing of cards and distribution of grain under this Scheme latest by 1st January, 2002.
    • It appears that some Antyodaya beneficiaries may be unable to lift grain because of penury. In such cases, the Centre, the States and the Union Territories are requested to consider giving the quota free after satisfying itself in this behalf
  • Mid-day Meal Scheme
    • It is the case of the Union of India that there has been full compliance with regard to the Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDMS). However, if any of the States gives a specific instance of non-compliance, the Union of India will do the needful within the framework of the Scheme
    • We direct the State Governments/ Union Territories to implement the Mid-Day Meal Scheme by providing every child in every Government and Government assisted Primary Schools with a prepared mid day meal with a minimum content of 300 calories and 8-12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days. Those Governments providing dry rations instead of cooked meals must within three months [February 28, 2002] start providing cooked meals in all Govt. and Govt. aided Primary Schools in all half the Districts of the State (in order of poverty) and must within a further period of three months [May 28, 2002] extend the provision of cooked meals to the remaining parts of the State
    • We direct the Union of India and the FCI to ensure provision of fair average quality grain for the Scheme on time.
    • The States/ Union Territories and the FCI are directed to do joint inspection of food grains. If the food grain is found, on joint inspection, not to be of fair average quality, it will be replaced by the FCI prior to lifting.
  • National Old Age Pension Scheme
    • It is the case of the Union of India that there has been full compliance with regard to the National Old Age Pension Scheme. However, if any of the States gives a specific instance of non-compliance, the Union of India will do the needful within the framework of the Scheme.
    • The States are directed to identify the beneficiaries and to start making payments latest by 1st January, 2002.
    • We direct the State Govts./ Union Territories to make payments promptly by the 7th of each month
  • Annapurna Anna Yojana
    • The States/ Union Territories are directed to identify the beneficiaries and distribute the grain latest by 1st January, 2002.
  • Integrated Child Development Services
    • We direct the State Govts./ Union Territories to implement the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) in full and to ensure that every ICDS disbursing centre in the country shall provide as under - Each child up to 6 years of age to get 300 calories and 8-10 grams of protein; Each adolescent girl to get 500 calories and 20-25 grams of proetin; Each pregnant woman and each nursing mother to get 500 calories & 20-25 grams of protein; Each malnourished child to get 600 calories and 16-20 grams of protein.
    • Have a disbursement centre in every settlement.
  • National Maternity Benefits Scheme
    • We direct the State Govts./ Union Territories to implement the National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS) by paying all BPL pregnant women Rs. 500/- through the Sarpanch 8-12 weeks prior to delivery for each of the first two births.
  • National Fertility Benefit Scheme
    • We direct the State Govts./ Union Territories to implement the National Family Benefit Scheme and pay a BPL family Rs. 10,000/- within four weeks through a local Sarpanch, whenever the primary bread winner of the family dies.
  • Other directions
    • We direct that a copy of this order be translated in regional languages and in English by the respective States/ Union Territories and prominently displayed in all Gram Panchayats, Govt. School Buildings and Fair Price Shops.
    • In order to ensure transparency in selection of beneficiaries and their access to these Schemes, the Gram Panchayats will also display a list of all beneficiaries under the various Schemes.

Order of 17 September 2001 [top]

  • States & Union Territories who, according to the learned Attorney General, had not identified the below poverty line families under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, to identify, we are not satisfied that any such exercise in the right earnestness has been undertaken.
  • The Food for Work Programme in the scarcity areas should also be implemented by the various States to the extent possible.

Order of 23 July 2001 [top]

In this hearing, the bench asked the petitioner to meet representatives of GoI to discuss the fourth report submitted by the commissioners. The parties were asked to report back to the court in five weeks with the results of the meeting.

  • In our opinion, what is of utmost importance is to see that food is provided to the aged, infirm, disabled, destitute women, destitute men who are in danger of starvation, pregnant and lactating women and destitute children, especially in cases where they or members of their family do not have sufficient funds to provide food for them
  • By way of an interim order, we direct the States to see that all the PDS shops, if closed, are re-opened and start functioning within one week from today and regular supplies made