"It (Centre) cannot totally wash its hands off on issues pertaining to Article 21 of the Constitution but at the same time, we do not suggest that the authority of the state government to declare a drought or any other similar power is diluted," a bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and N V Ramana said.

"The Union of India has certainly to maintain a delicate and fine balance between federalism and its constitutional responsibility, and that it must do otherwise it is ultimately the common person who will suffer and be in distress because of a situation not of his or her making," the Apex Courtsaid while passing a slew of directions on the issue of tackling a drought like situation.

The bench said that if Centre and state governments fails to respond to a developing crisis or a crisis in the making then the judiciary "can and must" consider issuing appropriate directions but "a Lakshman rekha" must be drawn.

"Surely, if a state government maintains an ostrich-like attitude, a disaster requires a far more proactive and nuanced response from the Union of India," the Apex Courtsaid in its 53-page judgement while citing Bal Gangadhar Tilak's quote, "The problem is not lack of resources or capability, but the lack of will."

The bench noted that "lack of will" was amply demonstrated in this matter in which states of Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana were "hesitant to even acknowledge, let alone address, a possible drought-like situation or a drought by not disclosing full facts about the prevailing conditions in these states."

The Apex Court said it was "quite surprised" that neither a National Plan has been drawn nor there is a National Disaster Mitigation Fund even after 10 years of the enforcement of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

"Evidently, anticipating a disaster such as a drought is not yet in the 'things to do' list of the Union of India and ad-hoc measures and knee jerk reactions are the order of the day and will continue to be so until the provisions of the Disaster Management Act are faithfully implemented," it said while directing the Centre to formulate a National Plan "at the very earliest and with immediate concern."

The Apex Court, which noted that around one-fourth of the total population of the country was affected by drought-like situation, also directed the Centre to establish a National Disaster Mitigation Fund within three months.

 

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Buck stops with Centre in dealing with drought situations: Supreme Court

 

New Delhi: The Supreme Court yesterday said that if state governments maintain an "ostrich-like attitude" towards disasters like drought then the Centre cannot wash off its hands from the constitutional responsibility as the "buck stops" with it in matters concerning common people.

 

"It (Centre) cannot totally wash its hands off on issues pertaining to Article 21 of the Constitution but at the same time, we do not suggest that the authority of the state government to declare a drought or any other similar power is diluted," a bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and N V Ramana said.

 

"The Union of India has certainly to maintain a delicate and fine balance between federalism and its constitutional responsibility, and that it must do otherwise it is ultimately the common person who will suffer and be in distress because of a situation not of his or her making," the Apex Courtsaid while passing a slew of directions on the issue of tackling a

drought like situation.

 

The bench said that if Centre and state governments fails to respond to a developing crisis or a crisis in the making then the judiciary "can and must" consider issuing appropriate directions but "a Lakshman rekha" must be drawn.

 

"Surely, if a state government maintains an ostrich-like attitude, a disaster requires a far more proactive and nuanced response from the Union of India," the Apex Courtsaid in its 53-page judgement while citing Bal Gangadhar Tilak's quote, "The problem is not lack of resources or capability, but the lack of will."

 

The bench noted that "lack of will" was amply demonstrated in this matter in which states of Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana were "hesitant to even acknowledge, let alone address, a possible drought-like situation or a drought by not disclosing full facts about the prevailing conditions in these states."

 

The Apex Court said it was "quite surprised" that neither a National Plan has been drawn nor there is a National Disaster Mitigation Fund even after 10 years of the enforcement of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

 

"Evidently, anticipating a disaster such as a drought is not yet in the 'things to do' list of the Union of India and ad-hoc measures and knee jerk reactions are the order of the day and will continue to be so until the provisions of the Disaster Management Act are faithfully implemented," it said while directing the Centre to formulate a National Plan "at the very earliest and with immediate concern."

 

The Apex Court, which noted that around one-fourth of the total population of the country was affected by drought-like situation, also directed the Centre to establish a National Disaster Mitigation Fund within three months.