On 28th October, 2020, the Supreme Court was hearing a batch of pleas which highlighted the problems being faced by sex workers on account of the Coronavirus pandemic.
A bench led by Justice L Nageswara Rao has directed all the State Governments to get help from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) following the standard operating procedure (SOP) & legal services authorities to identify sex workers and maintain confidentiality pertaining to the identity of sex workers. And also directed to ensure dry ration is being provided in an adequate amount & uniformly to them in this Covid-19 situation.
The Supreme Court also asked all the state Governments to file a compliance report within 4 weeks. The apex court stated, “We also direct the state government to ensure that schemes for the distribution of ration are implemented. In case there are no schemes the Central government scheme can be adopted. Regarding confidentiality, states to maintain the format of NACO & not reveal the identity”.
While hearing, Advocate Pukhrambam Ramesh Kumar, appearing for Manipur, contended that the state does not have any scheme for the relief of sex workers and has written to National Disaster Relief Fund so that some funds can be provided. Pursuant to this, NDRF submitted that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines do not allow funds to be used for this purpose. Upon which, the bench asked the state to figure out the finances & write to the Centre for finances.
Further, The court then asked Additional Solicitor General RS Suri that Manipur said there is a shortage of funds to distribute dry ration. “We have asked the State of Manipur to file a representation with the Centre,”. The bench told to RS Suri, to which he replied to let it file a representation & Government will look into this.
In an another plea, Senior Advocate Jayant Bhushan, acting as Amicus Curiae also contended that “under NACO, Uttar Pradesh says 27,000 sex workers are registered and get ration under National Food Safety Act”. While appearing for UP Govt., Advocate Garima Prashad, said that “most of them are already getting ration and Govt. is also making efforts for targeted intervention. Thus, some more time needed to gauge the exact numbers.”
Considering the facts and circumstances, the Bench led by Justice Rao observed that “Court had given State four weeks & still you have not been able to……. This shows the capability of the State. Four weeks is enough to provide ration & one to live off it. Don’t delay this & it should not be mere lip service,”
In the similar situation, the apex court passed the order on Sept. 29 observing that the UP isn’t clear about the implementation of the order passed for the identification of sex workers and providing dry ration. The State Counsel also submitted that 27,000 sex workers have been identified and the state is still in process of identification. Thus, the court is expecting the State of Uttar Pradesh to comply with directions along with the district legal services authority.
While reading out the Affidavit of Maharashtra Government, Advocate Jayant Bhushan noted that out of 36 districts, 8 have submitted reports, 28 have initiated the process. And further read out that the affidavit “In the 8 districts who have filed, then looking at Raigarh, one kilo of each item is given to per family. We do not know if that is sufficient. In Nashik, only sugar & dal has been given. So we don’t know if a proper job is being done”.