Kerala High Court stays EC's order stopping rice distribution at subsidized rates

The complaint was made by Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala. File  

The Kerala High Court on Monday stayed the Election Commission's order directing the State government to stop distribution of subsidized special rice of 10 kg at ₹15 to non-priority ration cardholders.

The court issued the stay order on a writ petition filed by the State government challenging the EC order. The Election Commission had passed the order restraining the government from distributing the rice on a complaint made by Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala. He had alleged that the distribution of subsidized rice and food would violate the model code of conduct.

The court observed that the decision regarding the special distribution was taken on February 4, much before the election notification, and the government had taken auctions for the rice from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) worth ₹83.34 crores, and that the last date of payment for lifting the rice was March 31, 2021.

The court also ordered that the distribution should be strictly done in accordance with the Model Code of Conduct which stipulated that the government should avoid all the ostentatious function and should not undertake welfare measures to influence the voters.

When the petition came up for hearing, the Additional Advocate General submitted that the special rice distribution was intended for the Easter-Vishu-Ramzan festive seasons, and the decision in this regard was taken on February 4, 2021, well before the announcement of the poll. He pointed out that similar special distribution of rice through ration kits was done during the Onam festival in August last year as well.

The Additional Advocate General also pointed out that the auction for lifting the rice from various depots of the FCI had already been completed. The model code of conduct did not apply to the ongoing programs.

Counsel for the Election Commission submitted that the decision was taken to ensure the level playing ground for all the parties and that the ruling party did not take advantage of the special distribution in close proximity of the elections.

The purpose of the model code of conduct was to prevent an undue advantage from being taken by the party in power by announcing welfare measures. It was also pointed out that the government did not say before the screening committee that it was a continuation of the progrmames in pursuant to a decision taken in February.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 3:36:39 AM |

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