Court expressed displeasure that despite its orders to take adequate measures, incidents of death of children have been reported, leading to uproar in Parliament.
The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed serious concern at media reports of death of over 50 children in relief camps for victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots, and directed the Uttar Pradesh government to provide them with relief by Friday.
A Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Desai and Ranjan Gogoi recorded an undertaking from senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the State, that immediate steps would be taken to give the inmates relief. The court took note of the reports of people struggling for their lives in the open and children dying, unable to withstand the cold, and directed the State government to assess the situation and file a detailed report on the next date of hearing.
Given that the cold conditions will be severe in the coming months, the Bench asked the government, especially the district administration, to provide the inmates, the children in particular, with materials, including medicines.
Petitioners Mohd Haroon and others said, “It is unfortunate that the whole country is unable to save even the small children who were dying on account of no fault of their own.”
The Chief Justice told Mr. Dhavan: “We are very much concerned with these news reports. You have a duty to provide them with immediate relief.”
Mr. Dhavan admitted that it was the State’s responsibility. The government would start relief measures from Friday itself. He said 4,000 people were still in the camps, and Rs. 75 crore disbursed as compensation for rehabilitation.
When counsel Manohar Lal Sharma said the State was yet to withdraw the Government Order restricting the compensation to Muslims, Mr. Dhavan said the notification was withdrawn and a revised one issued. Wherever the word, Muslim, was found, it was replaced with ‘displaced persons.’
At a previous hearing, the Bench took a serious view of the notification the government issued for giving Rs.5 lakh in compensation only to those Muslims affected in the riots, and directed the State to recall it and issue a fresh one to include all those who were affected. The court had made it clear to the government that it could not discriminate against victims on the basis of their community or religion in the award of compensation.
Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, counsel Aparna Bhat and counsel Prashant Kumar also pointed to inadequate relief measures.
In its order, the Bench said: “During the hearing, counsel for various petitioners/organisations raised certain complaints/grievances about the steps so far taken by the State government. Counsels are permitted to hand over those details to standing counsel for Uttar Pradesh by tomorrow [Friday]. The State is directed to take remedial steps at once and file its response at the next hearing. Post all the matters for final disposal on January 21, 2014.”