Basis for identification of sex workers need not be restricted to list provided by NACO: Supreme Court

In so far as Chandigarh is concerned, money was being transferred to accounts of sex workers who have been identified, the bench noted.

Published: 10th January 2022 10:17 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th January 2022 10:17 PM   |  A+A-

Supreme Court

Supreme Court (File Photo| EPS)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Noting that a large number of sex workers are left out from issuance of ration cards, the Supreme Court Monday said the basis for their identification need not be restricted to the list provided by National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai asked community based organisations to prepare a list of sex workers in their areas which shall be verified by concerned district legal services authority/ State Aids control society.

On verification, the list shall be forwarded to the competent authority, the top court said while directing the state authorities to maintain confidentiality in the matter.

The apex court also directed states and Union Territories to complete the process of issuance of voters cards/ration cards to sex workers.

"The states, UTs are directed to complete the process of issuing ration cards/voter cards and report to this court within two weeks from today. The basis for identification of sex workers need not be restricted to the list provided by NACO. Community based organisations shall submit a list of sex wokers which shall be verified by concerned district legal services authority/State Aids control society," the bench said.

During the hearing, the counsel for the states, who have not filed status reports, submitted that issuance of voter cards/ration cards is in process and direction issued by this court is being implemented.

The apex court noted that in Delhi, an SOP has been issued by the government and the ration is being distributed at 86 centres without insisting on any proof of residence.

In so far as Chandigarh is concerned, money was being transferred to accounts of sex workers who have been identified, the bench noted.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that a large number of sex workers are left out from the lists available with NACO as according to their scheme the minimum of 1,000 sex workers should be there in the community on the basis of which inclusion is to be made in the list prepared by NACO.

In case a community is less than 1,000 sex workers, the members of such community do not find their names in the list thereby not issued ration card or ration, he said.

Grover also submitted that in spite of order passed by this court, ration is only being provided intermittently by the state government to sex workers.

He said that all sex workers should be made eligible for ration through ration cards.

Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, who has been appointed amicus curiae in the matter, stated that proving ration to sex workers should not be stopped by states by any reason whatsover.

Bhushan stated that this court made it clear that information provided by community based organisations shall be taken into account for preparation of list for sex workers.

The counsel for Unique Identification Authority of India stated that he would take instructions on the suggestion from the amicus regarding exemption on submitting proof of residence by sex workers who can be given Aadhaar cards on basis of list prepared by NACO.

The matter would now be heard after four weeks.

Observing that fundamental rights are guaranteed to every citizen irrespective of vocation, the apex court had directed the Centre, all the 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 apex 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 and on September 29 last year, had asked the Centre and others to provide dry ration to them without insisting on their identity proof.

The plea 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.

The bench had directed that authorities can take assistance 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 apex court, on September 29, 2020, had directed all the states to provide dry rations to sex workers, who are identified by NACO, without insisting on any proof of identity and had sought status report on compliance.



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