Plea in Supreme Court seeks maternity benefits for lactating mothers

Supreme Court. File

Supreme Court. File   | Photo Credit: S. Subramanium

Supreme Court seeks Centre’s response

The Supreme Court sought a response from the government on a plea by an NGO to pay lactating mothers and pregnant women their maternity benefit of ₹6,000 each, especially during the hardships of a pandemic.

A Bench led by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde on Tuesday directed the Centre to submit a status report on the disbursement of the maternity benefit under the National Food Security Act.

The NGO, People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), represented by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves and advocate Satya Mitra, sought a judicial direction to the States and the Union Territories for disbursal of the amounts with effect from July 5, 2013.

“They need to eat and their children should be healthy,” Mr. Gonsalves submitted.

Mr. Gonsalves said the funds for the scheme had steadily depleted and finally dried up over the years. The situation has been stark for “millions of lactating mothers and pregnant women” during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown.

He said the situation had a far-reaching effect, including an increase in the child mortality rate.

The National Food Security Act was enacted to quell the hunger pangs of millions of poor families, women and children living below the poverty line.

In its 2017 judgment in the Swaraj Abhiyan case, the court said the Centre cannot look the other way, passing the buck to the States for not implementing the law. Referring to Article 256 (obligation of the Union and States) of the Constitution, the court had evoked the spirit of co-operative federalism unique to the Indian democracy. It had urged for a “meaningful dialogue” between the Centre and the States to save people living in poverty under the shadow of a disaster.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 2:16:26 PM |

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