The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed States and Union Territories to immediately start the process of issuing voter ID cards, Aadhaar and ration cards to sex workers across the country.
A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao said every person is guaranteed their fundamental rights irrespective of vocation.
“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 Central 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 court ordered.
The court found that its directions a decade ago to provide sex workers with ration cards have not been complied with yet.
“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 noted.
The court directed that authorities can take assistance from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and State AIDS control societies, which would in turn 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,” the court said.
The apex court, on September 29, 2020, had directed States to provide dry rations to sex workers, identified by NACO, without insisting on any proof of identity and had sought status report on compliance.
“Right to food has been recognised as a human right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Though, there is some improvement in the situation caused by COVID-19 pandemic, we are of the view that the constitutional obligation on the State governments and Union Territories to provide basic amenities to the citizens of this country takes into its fold that the sex workers are entitled for being provided dry ration,” the court had said.