Observing that fundamental rights are guaranteed to every citizen irrespective of vocation, the Supreme Court on Tuesday, December 14, directed the Union government, all the states and union territories to commence the process of issuing voter, Aadhaar and ration cards to sex workers and keep providing dry ration to them.
The apex court, hearing a plea that has raised the problems faced by sex workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been passing orders for their welfare and on September 29 last year, it had asked the Union government and others to provide dry ration to them without insisting on their identity proof.
A bench comprising justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna rued that the directions of the apex court on providing ration cards to the sex workers were passed in 2011 but they are yet to be implemented. "The state governments and UTs were directed to issue ration cards and identity cards to sex workers almost a decade back and there is no reason as to why such directions are not implemented till now," the bench said.
"The fundamental rights are guaranteed to every citizen of the country irrespective of his/her vocation. There is a bounden duty on the government to provide basic amenities to the citizens of the country. The Union government, state governments and other authorities are directed to commence the process of issuance of ration cards, voter ID cards and Aadhaar cards immediately," the bench ordered.
The bench directed that authorities can take assistance National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and state AIDS control societies who, in turn, will prepare a list of sex workers after verifying the information provided to them by the community-based organisations.
"The status report related to issuance of ration cards, voter ID cards and Aadhaar cards to the sex workers be filed in a period of four weeks from today and in the meanwhile, state governments and UTs are directed to continue distribution of dry ration to sex workers without insisting on ration cards and other proofs of identity as mentioned in earlier orders," it said.
The bench, which said that the copy of the order be sent to state and district legal services authorities for necessary action, also asked the government to keep the names and identity of sex workers confidential while preparing the various ID cards.
Earlier, the apex court, on September 29, 2020, had directed all the states to provide dry rations to sex workers, who are identified by NACO, without insisting on any proof of identity and had sought status report on compliance.
The apex court was hearing a plea filed by NGO 'Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee', which has highlighted the destitution faced by sex workers on account of COVID-19, and sought relief measures for them across India.