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  • The West Bengal Duare Ration plan, under which the State government delivers food grains through the public distribution system at the doorsteps of beneficiaries, has been deemed valid by the Calcutta High Court. 
  • In the case of Sk. Manowar Ali & Ors v. The State of West Bengal & Ors, a petition was filed that a state government notification issued on September 1 that amended Clause 18 of the West Bengal Public Distribution System (Maintenance and Control) Order, 2013, be declared unconstitutional and in violation of the Essential Commodities Act of 1955 and the National Food Security Act of 2013 (NFSA, 2013), respectively.
  • The court remarked that according to a reading of the NFSA, 2013, its rules, and the statutory orders made under Section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, the State Governments are allowed to provide benefits to the beneficiaries under the NFSA, 2013 .
  • The court further stated that the State Governments are required by Section 24 (2) (b) of the NFSA to ensure actual delivery of food grain supplies to the eligible individuals at the prices listed in Schedule-I.
  • Since the State Government is willing to go above and beyond to provide food to the recipients' doorsteps. This action does not violate any terms of the NFSA, its rules, or the directives issued under the ECA, 1955. 
  • Justice Rao emphasised that the claim of repugnancy would only be admissible if both pieces of legislation were included in the same list under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution . 
  • Nevertheless, it was determined in this particular case, that Section 24 (2)(b) of the NFSA, 2013, required the State Government to ensure actual delivery or supply of the foodgrains to the entitled persons at the prices specified in the Schedule, and that the State Government had decided to deliver food-grains at the doorsteps of the beneficiaries, which could not be said to be in violation of any provision of the NFSA, 2013, the Rules framed thereunder, or the order issued under the Essential Commodities Act.
  • The Court also remarked that on a previous occasion, fair price store dealers had filed petitions on similar concerns, but the high court, even then, did not interfere with the Duare Ration Scheme. 
  • It may be noted that Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya vide order dated December 23, 2021, had upheld the vires of the ambitious meal scheme of the West Bengal Government by opining that a welfare programme must be designed for achieving food and nutritional security as a necessity-driven strategy to tide over the current ongoing threat. 
     
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