The Delhi Food and Civil Supplies Department is moving the Supreme Court, challenging the AAP government’s decision to suspend e-POS or biometric authentication in the city’s Public Distribution System (PDS) network. The decision was taken after the government did not respond to Food Commissioner Mohanjeet Singh’s requests to restore e-POS, sources said.
This comes days after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ordered Singh’s suspension for alleged diversion of food articles from a fair price shop in Nangloi. But he continues to hold the charge as L-G Anil Baijal has not cleared the suspension.
According to sources, the food department has written to the law department seeking clearance and names of counsel to be engaged for this purpose. “The file (on engaging counsel) was moved to the law department early this week. This is a pre-requisite for any department wishing to move the court. The suspension of e-POS goes against the top court’s order and, hence, the legal route will have to be taken,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
The official added that the Supreme Court, in August 2017, had observed that e-POS-linked biometric authentication helped bring down corruption in PDS. “Within three months of its implementation in Delhi, pilferage had come down by 30 per cent,” the source claimed.
In April, the government had suspended the e-POS system — under which a ration beneficiary gets his share after Aadhaar-linked biometric authentication — citing irregularities. The L-G had even ordered a probe by the Anti-Corruption Branch into the allegations. Activists, too, had hailed the move to discontinue e-POS, saying it was depriving genuine beneficiaries from withdrawing their share of ration due to glitches in the biometric authentication process.
Since then, Singh has written to Delhi Food Minister Imran Hussain thrice, requesting him to reinstate e-POS.
Singh has faced the government’s ire in the past over the decision to strike off names of over 2 lakh alleged illegal PDS beneficiaries. The department had claimed that those removed from the list were not withdrawing ration for months, thus preventing the inclusion of genuine applicants.
The government has also clashed with Singh over his refusal to implement the doorstep delivery of ration scheme. The commissioner had written to the government to get the scheme vetted by the Centre, as it came under the National Food Security Act
Under the National Food Security Act, 2013, the number of beneficiaries in Delhi cannot exceed 72.8 lakh. Presently, there are around 2,058 fair price shops in Delhi. The allocations of wheat, rice and sugar for December are 2.75 lakh quintals, 71,360 quintals and 636 quintals respectively.