In April 2001, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Rajasthan submitted to the Supreme Court a writ petition seeking enforcement of the right to food. The PUCL contended in the appeal that the right to food is fundamental for the right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
This case was brought against the Government of India, the Food Corporation of India (FCI), and six State Governments, but was extended later against all the State Governments as the case covers range of issues relevant to right to food including hunger and malnutrition.
The PUCL vs Union of India & Others or Writ Petition (Civil) 196 of 2001 has become a public interest litigation and accordingly received a considerable number of interim orders. Among these orders is Interim Order dated 08 May 2002 which installed Commissioners of the Supreme Court and stipulated their power to investigate violations of interim orders related to the case, and demand redress. This was supplemented by Interim Order dated 29 October 2002 which expounded the Commissioners authority to monitoring and reporting the implementation status of said orders to the Supreme Court, and conducting inquiry to respective government authorities on their efforts in placing the orders functional.
The expanding authority and accountability of the Commissioners led to a creation of a Secretariat in New Delhi where the office is now situated. Advisers were also nominated at state level to provide a groundwork support to Commissioners. The Central Government and the State Governments were directed by the high court to provide assistance to the Commissioners. They were obliged to appoint Assistants to Commissioners and Nodal Officers ensuring the implementation of the interim orders.