The Supreme Court today rapped the West Bengal government for not filing a status report on proving dry rations to sex workers in the state, observing that fundamental rights are guaranteed to all citizens irrespective of vocation.

A Bench comprising of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice B R Gavai said that with a spurt in coronavirus cases the matter needs utmost attention as the issue is of survival while the state government was taking the issue lightly.

How many times should we tell you? We will pass strictures against you. Have you seen the order passed on the last date? Why can't you file an affidavit? When all the other states are filing, then why can't West Bengal do so?, the Court asked.

"Just because we are not taking a tough stand, doesn't mean that you can take us lightly. We can only ask you to take these matters seriously. We are looking at this case because ration is not being provided and survival is the problem. So, you can't take these things lightly," the Bench said.

The Counsel for the state government submitted before the Bench that it has launched Khadya Sathi Scheme and is providing dry ration to the needy. The Bench, however, remained unimpressed and asked the state government to file an affidavit detailing steps taken by it within two 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 and had asked the Centre and others to provide dry ration to them without insisting on their identity proof.

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.

Earlier, 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 reports on compliance.

The Apex Court was hearing a plea that highlights the destitution faced by sex workers on account of COVID-19, and seeks relief measures for over nine lakh female and transgender sex workers across India.

With PTI inputs