Bengal government’s doorstep ration delivery scheme illegal, holds Calcutta High Court
The state has ‘transgressed the limit of delegation’ as there is no provision for the facility under the National Food Security Act, the judges said.
A division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday held that the Mamata Banerjee government’s doorstep ration delivery scheme “Duare Ration” is illegal as it violates the National Food Security Act.
A bench of Justices Aniruddha Roy and Chitta Ranjan Dash was hearing pleas filed against two single-judge verdicts of the High Court that had upheld the legality of the scheme, which the Trinamool Congress had announced in its election manifesto for the 2021 state polls.
In December, Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya had upheld the scheme saying that reforms in the Targeted Public Distribution System are a “necessity-driven measure”. Meanwhile, in June, Justice Krishna Rao had observed that nothing under the National Food Security Act, 2013 stops state governments from extending benefits under the scheme.
However, on Wednesday, the division bench of the High Court held that the Mamata Banerjee-led government had “transgressed the limit of delegation” by asking ration shop dealers to distribute the monthly provisions at the doorstep of beneficiaries.
There is no such provision under the National Food Security Act, the judges observed. Doorstep delivery of ration can be allowed only if Parliament amends a law, they added.
The judges also noted that the wisdom of the legislature cannot be questioned because they did not add doorstep delivery as a benefit under the ration scheme.
“Various provisions have been made, which are essentially ‘machinery provisions’ for proper monitoring, check on pilferage and reach out of the benefits,” the judges observed.
This is the second instance of a High Court striking down a doorstep ration delivery scheme.
In May, the Delhi High Court had disallowed the scheme introduced by the Arvind Kejriwal government in the capital city. A division bench had noted that the Delhi lieutenant governor had not approved the scheme.
The court had also held that the Delhi government was free to bring in another doorstep delivery scheme under the Targeted Public Distribution System but it cannot use the grains given by the Centre for the programme.
The scheme was first introduced in March last year, but the Centre repeatedly sought to stall the facility, arguing that under the National Food Security Act, a state government is not entitled to change the mode of distribution of foodgrains.