The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain the Union government’s petition challenging a Delhi High Court order that paved way for doorstep delivery of ration in the national Capital, NDTV reported.
The Centre has repeatedly sought to stall the scheme introduced by the Arvind Kejriwal-led government in Delhi. The Centre has argued that under the National Food Security Act, a state government is not entitled to change the mode of distribution of foodgrains.
At Monday’s hearing, the Supreme Court noted that the Delhi High Court is slated to hear the matter on November 22, and requested the High Court to give a verdict on that day itself, according to Live Law. The Delhi government told the Supreme Court that it will not implement the scheme till then.
As part of the scheme, every beneficiary is entitled to receive 4 kilograms of flour and one kg of rice at their doorstep.
In an interim order passed on September 27, the Delhi High Court had allowed the Delhi government to reduce the supply of foodgrains to fair price shops in order to implement the scheme. The Centre had filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against the order.
On Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the case has widespread ramifications, Live Law reported.
“We have the National Food Security Act which provides for the distribution of foodgrains,” he noted. “The broad question is whether a state government can deviate from the mode of distribution prescribed by the Act.”
Mehta said that the Delhi government’s scheme proposes to select private agents, who will deliver ration to the doorsteps of the beneficiaries. “Now we don’t know how much they will supply,” he said.
The Supreme Court, however, questioned why such arguments cannot be made before the High Court.
Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Delhi government questioned why foodgrains could not be delivered to homes when home delivery of liquor was allowed. He alleged that a “strong lobby” was working to stall the scheme.
Tussle over the scheme
In March, the Centre had blocked the scheme saying that the Delhi government was not allowed to use foodgrains allotted under the National Food Security Act for any state-specific scheme under a different name. The Delhi government had initially planned to brand the scheme as the chief minister’s initiative, under the name “Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana”.
The Delhi government has repeatedly accused the Centre of seeking to block the scheme. In June, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to overturn the Centre’s decision to block the scheme.
In his letter, Kejriwal pointed out that his government agreed to drop the chief minister’s name from the scheme following the Centre’s objection, adding that he was not implementing the scheme to “take credit”.
Kejriwal had assured Modi that the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi was willing to make changes to the scheme as per the Centre’s recommendations.