There is a poor impression of fair price shops (FPS) as there are no checks for black marketing and malpractices, the Delhi High Court Friday said while asking the AAP government to consider involving these ration shops in its Doorstep Delivery of Ration Scheme.
The high court said the technological advancement has been put in place to check pilferages and malpractices and asked if the Delhi government was putting all the checks on such things, why can’t it be done for ration shops.
“We all have this poor impression of these fair price shops because there were no checks and black marketing of grains and malpractices used to happen. Earlier we did not pass any interim order in favour of the ration dealers, with this impression only..,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said.
The court, which was hearing a plea by Delhi Sarkari Ration Dealers Sangh challenging the Delhi government’s scheme for doorstep delivery of ration, Mukhymantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojna, listed the matter for further arguments on December 9.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Delhi government, said they have put on record the nepotistic practices and leakages in the system and now the authorities have put in place an end-to-end computerised system.
On the submission that beneficiaries of the scheme can opt out via SMS, the high court said some of the people are semi-literate or illiterate and do not bother to see or read SMS and how this mechanism has been adopted.
To this, the counsel said commonsensical mechanism has been adopted which says that no one will refuse home delivery of ration free of cost. “The allegation of befooling the beneficiaries cannot invalidate the scheme,” Singhvi contended, adding that this was a writ court and not even a single beneficiary has come to the court challenging the scheme and it was a proxy litigation done by the dealers at the behest of someone else.
The Delhi government had earlier defended its scheme in the high court saying it was a “complete misconception” that FPS will cease to exist on implementation of the scheme. It had said that with the march of technology, doorstep delivery becomes the norm and this something which needs applause and not criticism. He had said states like Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka’s Bengaluru have identical doorstep delivery schemes.
The Centre had earlier said the court should not allow any state to interfere with the structure of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and destroy its architecture. “As Union of India, we are only concerned with complete compliance of NFSA,” the Centre’s counsel had submitted.
The Centre has been opposing the Delhi government’s doorstep ration delivery scheme, saying that the State cannot mitigate the architecture of the NFSA while implementing it. The Centre has said the fair price shops are an integral part of the NFSA and the state has to fall into the architecture of the law.
The Supreme Court had on November 15 refused to entertain the Centre's plea against the Delhi High Court order directing the AAP government not to stop or curtail the supply of foodgrains or flour to fair price shops.
The apex court had said the September 27 order of the high court which was under challenge was an interim order and the matter is listed before the high court on November 22 and therefore it would not like to entertain it.
The Centre had earlier told the high court that as per the NFSA, it gives food grains to states which have to take it from the godown of the Food Corporation of India to deliver it to the doorsteps of FPS for distributing it to the beneficiaries.
It had said the Delhi government’s home delivery of ration scheme is contrary to NFSA and other states, including West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh, have different schemes than that of the Delhi government.
Defending its Doorstep Delivery of Ration in the National Capital territory Scheme, the Delhi government had said the scheme is for the poor who are now being threatened by FPS owners to opt-out of the home delivery mode otherwise they will not be given ration.
It had said since there was rampant corruption and inefficiency in the extant model of the Public Distribution System (PDS) which results in huge leakages and siphoning off of subsidised food grains, the scheme will ensure that clean packages of rice and wheat reach to poor people.
The Delhi government had said 69 lakh out of 72 lakh people have registered for the home delivery scheme which is a voluntary scheme. The high court had on September 27 directed the Delhi government to issue communications to all the FPS dealers informing them of the particulars of ration card holders who have opted to receive their rations at doorsteps. It had said only thereafter, FPS dealers are not required to be supplied with the ration of the PDS beneficiaries who have opted for doorstep delivery.
-With PTI Inputs