Supreme Court Puts Stays on Calcutta HC Order to Stop Duare Ration Scheme

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: 29 November 2022 at 23:36 IST

The Calcutta High Court’s ruling declaring the “Duare Ration plan” to be “ultra vires to the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013″ and “hence, a nullity in the sight of the law” was stayed by the Supreme Court.

In response to the Bengal government’s appeal of the High Court’s observation dated September 28, a division bench of Justices Sanjeev Khanna and MM Sundresh stayed the order and ordered that the “status quo” from prior to the High Court’s September verdict be preserved.

“Till any subsequent decision on this, there remains no legal impediment to proceed with the implementation of the programme,” counsel Sanjoy Basu, who represented the state, said in his opening statement.

The Bengal government argued before the Supreme Court that the state government’s plan does not conflict with the NFSA but rather adds to it. According to the lawyer, the Act gives the state government the authority to continue or create other food- or nutrition-based welfare programmes or “schemes providing for benefits higher than the benefits given under this Act.”

The state, according to the government’s 2021 strategy, offers an incentive of 75 paisa per kilogramme of food grains and sugar to each Fair Price Shop in order to assist with ration delivery to households’ doorsteps (FPS).

Additionally, the state informed the SC that if the FPS decides to buy their own three-wheeler or four-wheeler, they will be given a subsidy of 20% on the sale price up to a maximum of Rs. 1 lakh and will receive an additional payment of Rs. 5,000 per month on top of what is already being paid to existing dealerships.

The state further referenced a Delhi High Court ruling that stated: “If the government decides to go the extra mile to deliver the food grains at the beneficiaries’ doorsteps, the same is not adverse to NFSA.”

The state drew attention to the differences between the plans put forth by the Arwind Kejriwal administration in Delhi and those in Bengal, claiming that the Delhi plan was abandoned because it eliminated FPS owners while FPS owners were involved in the Duare Ration rollout in Bengal.

The benefits and drawbacks of the public distribution system were not discussed in the earlier Calcutta High Court ruling. By requiring the FPS dealers to deliver the rations to the beneficiaries at their doorstep in the absence of any authority in the enabling National Food Security (NFS) Act, the state government “transgressed the limit” of delegation, according to the HC bench.

CM Mamata Banerjee declared that she will keep up the Duare Ration programme. “With the Duare Ration plan, I will be last. I will have it and I won’t let anyone else have a share, so it won’t work if I say “ami eka khabo aar kauke khete debona,” CM had stated. The CM requested that the judiciary reconsider the situation.

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