SC directs Centre, states to provide ration, voter and Aadhaar cards to sex workers

New Delhi, Dec 14 (PTI) Observing that fundamental rights are guaranteed to every citizen irrespective of vocation, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre and all 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 Supreme 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.

A bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, B.R. Gavai and B.V. Nagarathna rued that the directions of the Supreme Court on providing ration cards to sex workers were passed in 2011, but 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 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 bench ordered.

The bench directed that authorities can take assistance from the 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 directed 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 identities of sex workers confidential while preparing the various ID cards.

Earlier, the Supreme Court, on September 29, 2020, had directed all the states to provide dry rations to sex workers, who have been identified by NACO, without insisting on any proof of identity and had sought a status report on compliance.

The Court was hearing a plea filed by the NGO ‘Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee’ (DMSC), represented by Senior Advocate Anand Grover. The petition has highlighted the destitution faced by sex workers on account of COVID-19, and sought relief measures for over nine lakh female and transgender sex workers across India.

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