In India there is a deeply rooted tradition of respect for food – it stresses the importance of growing and sharing food. Sharing or offering food is a universal tradition shared by all religious entities that have roots in the Indian soil.
Accordingly, in 1950, India adopted a very progressive Constitution aimed at ensuring all its citizens social, economic and political justice, equality, and dignity. Therefore any law to be valid in Indian Territory must be within the constitutional framework. Like in many countries of the World the “The Right to Food” in Indian Constitution is not recognized as a “Fundamental Right”. Therefore, there is no constitutional mandate to have a claim over it.
Regarding right to food, one has to look for relevance in Article 21 of the Constitution, entitled “Protection of life and personal liberty” and Article 47 “Duty of the state to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living […]” as well as in judicial interventions of the Supreme Court and various Acts, which have cumulatively strengthened the right to food in India. Knowing the constitutional and legislative framework in India regarding the right to food is crucial for identifying right to food violations and supporting victims in realizing their right to food.
Indian Constitution Part III, Article 21
“Protection of life and personal liberty – No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty
except to procedure established by law.” The phrases “Protection of life” and “personal liberty” have called several times for interpretation. A series of judicial interventions and interpretations have deepened the normative content of this fundamental right.
Indian Constitution Part IV: Directive Principles
The right to food or in general the economic, social, and cultural rights are defined in Part IV of the Constitution as Directive Principles of State Policy, which are guidelines to the central and State Governments for framing laws and policies. The provisions are not enforceable by any court, but the principles laid down therein are considered as fundamental in the Governance of the country. There are several Articles under the Directive Principles offer remote relevance for the right to food, but the clearest statement regarding the right to food is provided by Article 47.
Article 47: Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health.
The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs, which are injurious to health.
Putting together Article 21 and 47 and various interpretations of the Supreme Court of one can safely say that the Government of India has a constitutional obligation to take appropriate measures to ensure a dignified life with adequate food for all citizens. The right to food can be regarded as a fundamental right by virtue of interpretation.