The Bombay High Court has dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) which sought to discontinue or repeal Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Act of 1977 on the ground that a Central Act with same benefits for rural population has come into the effect from 2005. The PIL prayed that the Central law i.e Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005 be allowed to continue in place of the State law i.e Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Act, 1977.
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The petitioner — Aam Aadmi Lokmanch — also prayed that collection of funds under the State law — Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Act — be discontinued till the petition is disposed of.
However, the court refused to entertain the PIL saying the allegations were general in nature and not specific.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dr Manjula Chellur and Justice M S Sonak, dismissed the petition while observing that both the enactments, State as well as Central, are welfare legislation in the light of Directive Principles of the State Policy enshrined in the Constitution.
“Instead of getting benefit under one statute if citizens of this country are entitled to get two benefits, both under the State enactment and the Central Act, we fail to understand in the absence of any repugnancy between the two enactments how we could grant prayers sought in the petition by deleting such a provision or repealing Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Act?,” asked the court.
“If there is any violation of utilisation of funds or misappropriation or diversion of funds by any authority or individual person having the charge of the funds, it is always open to the public to bring to the notice of the authorities concerned the malfunctioning of the system or mechanism meant for achieving social justice through these two enactments,” the bench further observed.
“By general allegations (in the PIL) without ascribing any particular inaction of an authority, we are afraid that none of prayers could be entertained. Accordingly, the PIL is dismissed,” the bench held in a recent judgement.
According to the petitioner, Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Act, 1977, came to be gazetted on October 3, 1978, and is mainly aimed at providing benefits to the rural population of the country, specially adult members in rural areas who are unskilled labourers so that they get some guaranteed livelihood benefit by virtue of this enactment.
The petitioner further contended that after the introduction of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, which was gazetted on September 7, 2005 same benefits were given to the adult members in rural areas under the Central Act. Hence there is no need to have the State enactment and it should be repealed.
The Court, however, noted that the two enactments are aimed at providing various financial benefits guaranteeing minimum employment for a certain period in a year. Various guidelines are indicated how and through whom these benefits could be disbursed to the rural population. During the last so many years, separate funds are created for the present purpose and the funds are disbursed to various departments to give benefit as envisaged in the enactment.
The bench noted that the petition alleges that the people who are really eligible for the benefit are not getting the funds because the amounts released by the Union Government are credited to consolidated fund of the State and therefore they are not really disbursed to the rural population.
“If there is any diversion of funds meant for a particular scheme, the details of the same are not at all mentioned. All the averments in the petition are in general without specifically pointing out any person or particular scheme,” the court observed and dismissed the PIL.