“The states should provide ration to sex workers without insisting on ID proof”- Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on 29th September on hearing an application filed by NGO Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, directed the state governments to ensure that dry ration is provided to sex workers even without identification proof. The plea was filed to emphasize the poverty faced by the sex workers on the account of COVID-19. The application seeks relief measures for over nine lakh female and transgender sex workers across the country.

The 2-Judge Bench consisting of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Ajay Rastogi has directed that sex workers who are identified by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and state committees be given this benefit.

In the previous judgment, the Court held that sex workers have a right to live with dignity. A committee was made following it to study the various laws and to conduct a study relating to the conditions of sex workers. One of the terms of reference was the rehabilitation of sex workers.

RS Suri the Additional Solicitor General submitted that the Centre does not have objection if the states provide amenities without insisting on identity proof. Counsel for Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal submitted that they have already initiated steps to provide dry ration without insisting on Voter ID etc. Other states informed the Court that there is no scheme for providing dry ration without proof of identity, though there are other schemes to provide basic goods.

Amicus Curiae in the matter, Senior Advocate Jayant Bhushan, submitted that the existence of schemes under which sex workers can be provided the amenities sought for in this application was not clear.

Advocate Piyush Roy, another Amicus Curiae in the case, submitted that sex workers should be permitted to open bank accounts without proof of identity. This would enable them to obtain any financial benefits sent by the Centre or the states, he said.

The advocate of the petitioner, Anand Grover said that there is a huge gap in the identification of sex workers.

The Court finally directed that the states should provide ration to sex workers without insisting on ID proof.

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