A division bench of justices Sanjeev Khanna and MM Sundresh, while hearing an appeal by the Bengal government against the HC’s September 28 observation, stayed the order and directed that the “status quo” from before the HC’s September judgment be maintained.
Advocate Sanjoy Basu, who appeared for the state, said, “Till any further judgment on this, there remains no legal roadblock to continue with the implementation of the scheme.”
The Bengal government submitted in the apex court that the state government’s scheme is not in contradiction, rather supplements the NFSA. The counsel argued that the Act empowers the state government to continue or formulate other food-based welfare schemes or nutrition-based plans or “schemes providing for benefits higher than the benefits provided under this Act”. The government also argued that in order to help with the doorstep delivery of ration, the state, in its 2021 scheme, provides an incentive of 75 paisa per kilogram of food grains and sugar to each Fair Price Shop (FPS). Moreover, if the FPS wishes to purchase their own three-wheeler or four-wheeler, they shall be provided a subsidy of 20% on sale price subject to maximum 1 Lakh, and they will be paid an additional amount of Rs. 5,000/- per month over and above existing dealerships, the state told SC.
The state also cited a Delhi HC order which said, “If state government wishes to travel an extra mile to deliver the food grains at the doorsteps of the beneficiaries, the same is not contrary to NFSA.” Pointing out to the difference between the scheme proposed by the Arwind Kejriwal government in Delhi, and the one in Bengal, the state said that the Delhi scheme was struck down as it had done away with the FPS owners, while FPS owners were engaged in the the Duare Ration rollout in Bengal.
The earlier Calcutta HC order didn’t go into the pros and cons of the public distribution system. The HC bench had held that the state government “transgressed the limit” of delegation by obliging the FPS dealers to distribute the rations to the beneficiaries at their doorstep in absence of any authority in the enabling National Food Security (NFS) Act.
On Thursday, CM Mamata Banerjee had announced her resolve to continue with the Duare Ration scheme. “I will go to the last with the Duare Ration scheme. Ami eka khabo aar kauke khete debona, ta hobe na (I will have it and won’t allow anyone else to have a share won’t work),” the CM had said. The CM appealed to the judiciary to rethink the matter.