SC seeks report from Centre on plea for help to poor pregnant, lactating women

SC seeks report from Centre on plea for help to poor pregnant, lactating women

Photo for representation.

New Delhi, July 14

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a report from the Centre on a plea of an NGO seeking status of a 2013 statutory scheme which provided for distribution of maternity benefits of Rs 6,000 to all pregnant women and lactating mothers in the country. 

One of the provisions of the National Food Security Act, which came into effect from July 5, 2013, said that the poor pregnant and lactating women have to be given monetary help of minimum Rs 6,000 per month. 

A Bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices R Subhash Reddy and A S Bopanna was hearing the PIL filed by NGO ‘Peoples Union For Civil Liberties’ (PUCL). 

It also issued notice on one of the prayers of the PIL relating to monetary help to lactating and pregnant women as it was not taken note of in 2015. 

“Issue notice in respect of prayer (j) of the instant writ petition which reads as under: ‘For an order directing all States and UTs to pay the maternity benefit of not less than Rs.6,000 to all pregnant women and lactating mothers with effect from July 5, 2013 in accordance with Section 4(b) of the National Food Security Act’,” the Bench said in the order.                         

In a hearing conducted through video conferencing, it asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to file the status report giving details of the steps taken in helping the poor lactating and pregnant women in the country. 

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the NGO, said that a status report be sought from the government on the steps taken to extend financial help to such women in the event of cessation of the lockdown. 

Pregnant women receive incentive given under the “Janani Suraksha Yojana” (JSY) for institutionalised delivery and the incentive received under JSY would be accounted towards maternity benefits. 

Gonsalves said the issue was very important in view of the fact that there was a very high mortality rate of children and women here. 

Earlier, the top court, on September 4, 2015, had sought the response from the Centre on a plea seeking distribution of subsidised food grains to the poor through PDS and proper implementation of maternity benefit schemes.

It had issued notices to Union Ministries of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Women and Child Development on the PIL. 

The plea had sought a direction to all states and Union territories for proper implementation of the National Food Security Act and the maternity benefit scheme. 

The petition had claimed that even after lapse of statutory time-limit, process of identification of beneficiaries is not complete and the National Food Security Act is not being fully implemented. 

“As many 45.9 crore beneficiaries entitled to subsidised grains at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1 for rice, wheat and coarse grains respectively, from July 4, 2014 under provisions of the Act, are not receiving grains at the specified prices due to delay in implementation of the Act,” it had said. 

It said that “meal provision under the Integrated Child Developments Services (ICDS) scheme has very low coverage and is far from universal as has been laid down in the Act and directed by the apex court”.        

It also sought a direction to all the states and UTs to ensure that no eligible applicant is denied a ration card. PTI

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