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Calcutta High Court Upholds Legality Of The Door Step Ration Delivery Scheme After Examination Of Essential Commodities Act, 1955 And National Food Security Act, 2013

Yashvardhan Gullapalli ,
  23 June 2022       Share Bookmark

Court :
West Bengal High Court at Calcutta
Brief :

Citation :
WPA 18630 of 2021

Case title:
Sk. Manowar Ali & Ors Vs. The State of West Bengal & Ors

Date of Order:
16/06/2022

Bench:
Justice Krishna Rao

Parties:
S. Manowar Ali – Petitioner
The State of West Bengal – Respondent

Subject

The legality of the state-sponsored Durare Ration Scheme which facilitated doorstep delivery of rations was upheld in a case where it was argued to have been Ultra Vires.

Facts

  • An instant writ application was filed by the petitioner challenging a circular dated 13/09/2021 which amended Clause 18 of the West Bengal Public Distribution System (Maintenance and Control) Order, 2013.
  • It was claimed to be ultra vires and unconstitutional according to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, the National Food Security Act, 2013, and also articles 14, 21, 19 (I) (g), etc.
  • Arguments Advanced by Petitioner
  • The learned counsel for the respondent submits that the central government has the authority for regulating and, if necessary, prohibiting the supply and circulation of commodities listed under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, as seen in sections 3 and 5 of the above act.
  • And it was further argued that in section 5 of the EC Act, it was stipulated that it was necessary for the central government to delegate the power of regulation and distribution of commodities to the state, which has not happened in this case. The same is reflected in the challenged notification, in which it is nowhere mentioned that there was a delegation of power.
  • The responding side held that rations can only be distributed from the ration shops after biometric verification of the consumers entitled to the benefits. But the verification process is impossible if there is doorstep delivery involved as the e-PoS machine is importable
  • Counsel for the respondent pointed out that all the states had framed rules for regulating targeted Public Distribution Systems after the passing of NFSA, 2013 after exercising power under Section 3 of the EC Act and read with Central Control Order, 2015 except the state of West Bengal.

Arguments Advanced by Respondent

  • It is duly submitted by the responding side that the Durare Ration Scheme is an ‘administrative order’ according to section 12 (1) of the NFSA, 2013 (and Article 162 of the constitution) which appoints the state government as responsible for the delivery of the ration to the consumers. And that the NFSA will overwrite the EC Act as it is a more recent legislation.
  • The respondent places reliance on the NFSA, 2013 while arguing that under the act, the state government is responsible for the execution and following up on various schemes belonging to itself and to the central government within the guidelines issued by the government of India.
  • Original intent of the parliament while formulating the NFSA was not to exclude the state government in the process of introducing new schemes for the welfare of the citizens.
  • The counsel for the respondent argues that the enactment of the NFSA even with the prior existence of the EC Act symbolizes a change of stance from welfare–rights-based perspective to a more urgent approach seeking to address the situation of food security in the country and this change means that the state government has been elevated to the same level as the central government in these issues.

Judgment

  • After perusal of NFSA, 2013 and Section 3 of EC Act, 1955, the court could not find anything insinuating that the state government is not authorized to extend benefits for the welfare of the people under the NFSA, 2013.
  • It has been held that the NSFA directs the government to ensure the delivery of rations to the beneficiaries and if the state government decides to ‘go the extra mile and conduct a doorstep delivery then there is nothing in the provision that expressly prohibits that.
  • And by reading Section 24 (2) (b) of the NFSA with Clause 35 of the West Bengal Public Distribution System (Maintenance and Control) Order, 2013, the court determined that the order notification dated 13/09.2021 was not void in amending clause 18 of the West Bengal Public Distribution System (Maintenance and Control) Order, 2013.

Conclusion

Thus, the Calcutta High Court ruled that there was no illegality in the functioning of the West Bengal Durare Scheme.

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

 
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