Authorities should ensure women become independent, take country ahead in securing gender-equality: Bombay HC

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The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court on February 8 directed the Ahmednagar District Supply officer (DSO) to restore within eight weeks, from the date of order, the authorisation of four Mahila bachat gats or Women Self Help Group (SHGs)from Shrirampur Taluka to run fair price shops.

The four Bachat Gats in Ahmednagar district, through advocate Shaikh M.A. Jahagirdar alleged that the cancellation of authorisation by the DSO was on “unsustainable grounds” and the policy of the state government did not contemplate such an action in the wake of allegations levelled against them.

The Court observed that “in view of the prevailing status of women in India,” the authorities are required to ensure implementation of government policies of encouraging women empowerment, so that “women become independent and develop the ability to make strategic choices in all areas of their lives.”

The Court said, “It would take this country ahead in securing gender equality by their sustainable development.” The DSO on May 14, 2013 issued notices to the petitioners for alleged violation of the Maharashtra Scheduled Commodities (Regulation of Distribution) Regulation, 1975 on the basis of report by the Tahsildar, Shrirampur which suggested that the food grains were stocked unauthorizedly and the persons related to the said bachat gats were booked and arrested.

However, the petitioners responded and denied the allegations, stating that the food grains which are received, are duly distributed as per norms and related records are maintained in a transparent manner.

A single-judge bench of Justice Bharati H Dangre noted on February 8 that it could not refrain from commenting on the “approach of state authorities right from the level of Tehsildar to the highest level of the state government.”

The judge observed, “It is necessary to take note of the prevailing status of women in this country, where every endeavour is made on all fronts by equipping them with the tools they need to have power and control of their own lives.”

The DSO passed an order suspending authorization of petitioners’ shops, which led them to approach with revision pleas before the Deputy Commissioner (Supply) Nasik Division.

The Deputy Commissioner partly allowed the pleas, but directed DSO to proceed against petitioners based on Tahsildar’s report, if they are found guilty.

The petitioners again filed revision pleas, which were dismissed by the Deputy Commissioner. Thereafter, the Minister of Food Supply Department also rejected their pleas, prompting them to approach the High Court.

The Court perused various Government Resolutions (GRs) and inspection reports and held that the orders by various authorities upholding cancellation of authorisation of petitioners’ shops cannot be sustained.

The bench observed, “There is no allegation faced by the petitioners that they have sold the food grains outside the shop or at a price higher than the one fixed by the Government. … It cannot be said that the fair price shops run by the petitioners demand a serious action of cancellation of their permit / authorization particularly when the fair price shops authorization is granted to the Mahila Bachat Gats with an object of uplifting of women in the village / society.”

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