Narayanasamy moves Madras High Court on free rice scheme


Puducherry Chief Minister says Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi arbitrarily interfered in the scheme without any jurisdiction or manner of power.

Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy on Friday moved the Madras High Court to declare as illegal and ultra vires, the action of the administrator of the Union Territory in differing with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers with regard to the free rice scheme.

Justice C.V. Karthikeyan, before whom the petition filed by the Chief Minister came up for hearing, directed the Registry to number the petition and post it for maintainability. In his petition, Mr. Narayanasamy sought a direction for the continuation of the policy of the Puducherry government as per its free supply of rice, edible oil and other essential food grains every month to all ration cardholders in kind.

He said immediately after coming to power, the Cabinet at its first meeting on June 6, 2016, decided not only to continue the supply of rice in kind, but also to enhance it from 10 kg to 20 kg. From August 2016, the distribution of free rice to all ration cardholders was enhanced to 20 kg.

The petitioner said funds for the implementation of the scheme came from the government of Puducherry and not from the Centre. While so, in January 2018, under the guise of financial approval, Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi arbitrarily interfered in the supply and food security without any jurisdiction or manner of power, ordered reduction of distribution of free rice from 20 kg to 10 kg for the APL cardholders.

She gave a directive that in respect of APL cardholders, only Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) as cash should be done, the petitioner said. In view of the ‘authoritative’ acts of the Lt. Governor, his government took up the issue of continuation of their policy and the matter was placed before the Cabinet for deliberations at the June 7, 2019 meeting, he said.

After deliberations and various complaints, the Cabinet decided to continue the distribution of free rice in kind rather than as DBT, he said.

However, by September 5, 2019, the administrator differed with the views of the Cabinet and the Council of Ministers and referred the matter to the Union government. She also passed an interim order that the rice would not be supplied in kind but the benefit would only be DBT (cash) mode pending the decision of the Centre.

Now, the Union government has issued an advisory to the Union Territory of Puducherry to continue with the DBT scheme in lieu of distribution of free rice, he added. Earlier, Mr. Narayanasamy had accused Ms. Bedi of functioning in an “atrocious” manner by “blocking” the free rice scheme and interfering in the appointment of the State Election Commissioner.

The Chief Minister, who has been at loggerheads with Ms. Bedi on various issues, also said he has moved the High Court over the issue. While the government has been insisting on distribution of rice to ration cardholders, she has pushed for remittance of cash equivalent to the quantum of rice into bank accounts of beneficiaries, saying the Centre has given such direction.

Mr. Narayanasamy claimed approval has been obtained from Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan for distributing rice to the cardholders through the PDS instead of cash. But, Ms. Bedi, meanwhile, wrote to the Home Ministry insisting on Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), which was accepted by the latter, he said.

The Chief Minister said PWD and Local Administration Minister would also soon challenge in the Madras High court, Lieutenant Governor’s current move to appoint a State Election Commissioner through a newspaper advertisement. Her earlier ‘attempt’ was thwarted by the territorial Assembly and a resolution was adopted appointing retired IAS officer T.M. Balakrishnan as the SEC to conduct the civic polls, he said.

While Mr. Balakrishnan, subsequent to his appointment, started carrying out duties to conduct civic polls, Ms. Bedi got the Home Ministry nod for recruiting the SEC through a Selection Committee headed by the Chief Secretary, the Chief Minister said.

Reacting to the Chief Minister’s remarks, Ms. Bedi in a WhatsApp message, said he was repeatedly making “unfounded” statements.

She said, “Regrettably, the honourable Chief Minister is repeatedly making very unfounded statements. I leave it to the people to understand. Unfortunately, telling lies is not an offence. It is all about misinforming the people all the time.”

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 11:56:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/narayanasamy-moves-madras-high-court-on-free-rice-scheme/article30538628.ece

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