The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed its limitation in passing coercive orders for alleged failure by some states to set up panels on the issue of urban homelessness, saying its "whip has broken" as suggestions have been made that the judiciary should refrain from entering the domain of governance.
"We have been told that governance is for the government and not for the courts. If there is no governance, we cannot do anything," a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said.
The observations by Justice Lokur assume significance following Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's remarks on Wednesday that "the founding fathers always wanted governance must be left to those elected to govern by the people of India."
Similarly, Attorney General KK Venugopal had on August 8 told the bench headed by Justice Lokur that it should refrain from making hard-hitting observations while hearing public interest litigation matters since these impacted other issues plaguing the country.
At today's hearing on a matter related to providing shelter to urban homeless in the country, the bench was told by the centre that several states have not yet constituted a committee to deal with the issues of implementation of the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM).
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the bench that the top court should "crack its whip" on the defaulting states.
"The whip is broken," the bench, also comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta, said.
Mr Bhushan then told the court that chief secretaries of these states, which have not yet constituted the committees, should be asked to appear in the court to explain.
A lawyer for one of the petitioners told the court that some coercive steps should be taken against these states as no progress has been made in the matter.
"What is to be done? We cannot make houses," the bench observed, adding, "What coercive steps? The governance is for the government and not for the courts".
The bench noted that "unfortunately" the centre's status report indicated that in some states, no committee has been formed, while in some others, meetings of the panel were not held.
The top court asked the centre to give within 10 days, a chart on the status of each states along with details of composition of committee, date of notification for it and meetings held by the panel.
At the outset, the bench said that as per the status report filed by the centre, most of states have not held any meetings of the committee and some of them have only had one meeting.
Mr Bhushan told the bench that once the court passes an order, the states do respond if it was made clear to them that action would be taken in case of default.
"Somebody should be sent to jail. Only then they (states) will act," he said.
Advocates appearing for Bihar, Haryana and Chhattisgarh said that committees have been constituted by them.
The bench observed that Delhi was the only one which appeared to have done something in the matter.
It also asked whether members of the civil society, who have been made members of the committee in the states, have attended the meetings.
"You have to do some homework. There are 29 states. You give us in 29 pages that this is the composition of the committee, this is the date of notification and these are the dates of meetings," the bench told the counsel appearing for the centre.
The top court had earlier expressed shock that welfare schemes were not being effectively implemented even after spending thousands of crores of rupees on them.
The petitioners had earlier referred to a report of the top court-appointed committee headed by former Delhi High Court judge Justice Kailash Gambhir and said a number of shelter homes in some of the states were much less than what was required.
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