HC for Timely, Hassle-free SMAS Benefits to Poor Girls

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Srinagar—The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Wednesday asked state’s Social Welfare Department to provide assistance under State Marriage Assistance Scheme (SMAS) to the poor girls in the state without delay and complex formalities.

Hearing a suo-moto Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Kumar directed Commissioner Secretary Social Welfare department that by virtue of the order on 13 June last year, several provisions of the SMAS for poor girls were interpreted by the court and it was ordered that information sought at sr.no.8 of Form-I of the Scheme with regard to date of marriage and documentary evidence would not be necessary where such documentary evidence was not available.

The court had further ordered that where the date of marriage was not fixed but marriage was imminent, the beneficiary should file an affidavit stating that her marriage has been fixed but the date has not been set and that in the absence of any documentary evidence available with her, the affidavit would suffice. The court also directed SWD to clear all pending cases immediately.

The directions followed submissions by amicus curie and senior advocate B A Bashir that as per the data provided by the authorities, 1564 cases are pending before them for of want of funds.

He said that if any of the girls among them was to get married during the pendency of cases, “what was the fun of the scheme?”

Counsel representing SWD Hashim Hussain requested the court to grant some time to him and that the directions of the court will be implemented in letter and spirit. The division impressed upon the SWD to inform it as to what time was taken from receiving the application of any beneficiary and thereafter granting her assistance. It directed the Commissioner Secretary to modify the form, especially its para-8.

The government informed that 4114 cases have been sanctioned till ending March this year and during the current financial year, 1158 cases stand sanctioned, making the total sanctioned number of cases as 5272 under SMAS scheme upto August 21.

On previous date of hearing, the court had directed the SWD to indicate the number of girls in each district who have been given the benefit of SMAS from its inception till date.

The SWD was also directed to also indicate the number of applications received in Form-I under the SMAS.

On July 18 this year, the court also ordered the SWD should strictly comply with the time line prescribed in the its order of 13 June 2016 by deciding the application within one week and, where the decision was in favour of the beneficiary, of disbursing the amount within one week thereafter.

The court also directed the government to also indicate whether a corpus fund as required under the SMAS has been established and whether wide publicity has been given to it so that philanthropists can also make contributions to the corpus fund.

“The (government) shall also indicate very clearly as to whether there is any specific corpus account whereby persons can transfer funds directly to the corpus fund without requiring any further formalities. The (government) shall also indicate as to what steps have been taken to create awareness of the scheme amongst the beneficiaries and whether the Form-I which is the only mode for applying under the scheme is readily available at all district centres so that the intending beneficiaries may apply for and avail of the benefits under the scheme.”

The schemes were launched on the directions by the court in order to enable the poor girls live a dignified life and prevent their exploitation.

The PIL was initially a petition, seeking quashing of PSA order at the pre-execution stage against one Mohammad Amin Beigh, a resident of Kulgam in south Kashmir.

Beigh—who was running a private security agency— was ordered to be detained under the PSA by District Magistrate Srinagar on December 26, 2011 for indulging in immoral activities including physically exploiting poor girls as well as ‘supplying’ them to others.

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