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Supreme Court Directs Issuance of Ration Cards, Voter IDs to Sex Workers

Team SoOLEGAL 16 Dec 2021 1:23pm

Supreme Court Directs Issuance of Ration Cards, Voter IDs to Sex Workers

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday urged state governments and union territories to begin the process of issuing ration cards/voters identity cards to sex workers from the NACO list as soon as possible.

The panel of Justices LN Rao, BR Gavai, and BV Nagarathna determined that its directives to provide sex workers over a decade ago had not been followed. As a result, the bench stated in its order,
”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 citizen of the country. The State Government/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 gave the authorities permission to enlist the help of State AIDS Control Societies, who were tasked with compiling a list of sex workers after validating the information given by community based organizations. It further instructed the States and Union Territories to continue distributing dry rations to sex workers without requiring ration cards or other proof of domicile or profession if the protocol was followed.

Directions were also issued to the States and Union Territories to file a status report on the issuing of ration cards, voter identity cards, and Aadhar card within four weeks of the date of order and to keep the names of the sex workers discreet.

Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee’s Application:
The orders were made as the bench was hearing a plea submitted by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, which asked the court to force the authorities to provide monthly dry food and cash transfers to sex workers who were fighting to live during epidemic. The petitioner claimed that sex workers were denied dry meals because they could not provide evidence of identification.

In this context, the Supreme Court authorized state governments and Union Territories to distribute dry food to sex workers designated by the National AIDS Control Organization without requiring evidence of identification. The District Legal Services Authorities were also told to help with the delivery of dry rations to sex workers without requiring evidence of identity. It had asked the State Governments not to involve police authorities in the distribution of dry rations to sex workers on October 28, 2020, and on September 29, 2020, it had directed the State Governments and Union Territories to distribute the minimum quantity of dry rations as provided in schemes formulated either by them or by the Central Government.

Submission of Counsels
Senior Advocate Anand Grover, acting for the petitioner, said that the Supreme Court’s orders were not being followed. Referring to the affidavits filed by the state governments, he proposed that NACO and community based organizations issue ration cards to all sex workers based on their identity as a solution to the problem.

Senior Advocate Jayant Bhushan, Amicus Curiae, accompanied by Advocate Piyush Kanti Roy, alluded to various affidavits made by the State Governments and contended that the Supreme Court’s orders were not being followed. It was also his view that dry rations were supplied for a few months before being discontinued. He further alluded to an affidavit filed by the State of Gujarat in which it claimed that 12,291 sex workers out of the 24,579 sex workers registered with NACO were unwilling to participate in the programs and so demanded that the matter be investigated.

Background
on July 19, 2011, has constituted a committee to advice on matters connected to trafficking prevention, rehabilitation of sex workers who choose to leave sex work and conditions favorable to sex workers living with dignity, in conformity with Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It went on to say that, based on the interim reports filed by the committee; the Supreme Court had issued a number of orders directing the Central Government and the State Governments to:

a.     Obtain concrete information from the states on whether sex workers were provided other livelihoods and whether they sought to be rehabilitated.

b.     All State Legal Services Authorities were ordered to establish a hotline number for sex workers in order to give free legal assistance.

c.     Instructions to the Central Government to widen the scope of its programs for rescued victims of human trafficking to include sex workers seeking rehabilitation.

d.     To make it easier for sex workers to get voter identification cards, ration cards, and open bank accounts, for example, by loosening the laws governing home address verification.

e.     To offer a variety of facilities for children of sex workers, including crèches, daycare centers, and night care centers, as well as to preserve their Right to Education.

Given that the committee’s conclusions were made public on September 14th, 2016, and that the committee suggested revisions to 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
On September 12th, 2011, the committee released an interim report, in which some of the recommendations were:

·       Recognition of sex workers’ legal status by official papers such as voters identity card, ration card, pan card and so on.

·       A voter identification card should not be rejected to a sex worker who is a citizen of this nation. Admission of their children to government – recognized schools, as well as the advantages of the Central Government’s Ujjawala system, would be provided to sex workers.

The panel also advised that state governments and municipal governments give ration cards to sex workers by reducing the rigorous of existing procedures for address verification without regard to their vocation. On September 15, 2011, the Court ordered the Central Government and the State Governments to execute the committee’s recommendations on the issuing of ration cards and voter identity cards.



Tagged: Supreme Court   Ration Cards   Voter IDs   Sex Workers   state governments   union territories   Justice LN Rao   Justice BR Gavai   Justice BV Nagarathna  
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