Updated: November 30, 2021 1:10:44 am
Defending its home delivery of ration scheme, the Delhi government Monday argued before the Delhi High Court that “politics has taken over public interest” and termed the objections against it “egotistic” and a “camouflage”. Terming it a progressive scheme, the government said there was no explicit prohibition against it under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
“It would require a very very strange legislation to suggest that in this time for the last two years of doorstep delivery of almost anything and everything, be it Amazon or non-Amazon, be it food articles like Swiggy or other deliveries, your lordship is told that ration delivery to the deserving and the entitled should not be done by this methodology,” argued Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represents the government, during the hearing of a petition challenging the scheme.
Terming the petition filed by the Delhi Sarkari Ration Dealers Sangh a proxy litigation, the government contended that while NFSA is a central Act, the same is premised upon the operational work being handled by the state government and not the union.
“Your lordships have to see through this. Ultimately politics has taken over public interest. ‘Don’t call it mukhya mantri’ is the objection. You [Those objecting] don’t want a scheme which is both beneficial and will get support from the public,” submitted Singhvi, while referring to the initial objection of the central government against the scheme’s name.
Singhvi further said “an overwhelming percent of people” in Delhi had opted for the scheme through the ‘call system’. “There are no limits to innovation. Is your lordships going to be told that your lordships will be stopping it because it is prohibited impliedly,” he submitted.
However, the division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh in its observations said the question was not of it being a better scheme but whether it was covered under the NFSA. It recalled that the central government in its arguments had principally opposed the ouster of fair price shops from the system.
“Even Ld ASG did not say that doorstep delivery cannot be there but what is being said is that there is an architecture. ‘FPS are integral to the whole system evolved under the NFSA, therefore, you cannot do away with’… that is the point. What are you proposing to do? If you are proposing to take grain from central government, give it to tendered contractors for cleaning and conversion, and then they will deliver it to the beneficiaries which means the FPS are nowhere,” said the court.
Singhvi submitted that one FPS would be in every circle. “It is from these circles that home delivery person picks up… not bypasses,” he added. The arguments will continue in the case on December 3.
On November 22, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati had termed fair price shops integral to the architecture of the NFSA and argued that a state is required to ensure execution of the law in a manner mandated under it. Bhati said the state was free to provide benefits more than what is given under the NFSA but “cannot mitigate the benefits of NFSA”.
On Monday, Bhati submitted that it was concerned with a “complete compliance of the mandate of NFSA” and not interested in any other thing. She reiterated that any state may not be allowed to interfere with the mechanism of NFSA. “They are free to give better benefits but not in this manner that they destroy the architecture of NFSA. They don’t want to do it even as a pilot scheme like other states,” the central government counsel argued.
The petition filed by Delhi Sarkari Ration Dealers Sangh challenged the tenders issued towards implementation of the scheme on home delivery of ration which seeks to create a parallel mechanism for distribution of ration under PDS through private dealers at the doorstep of people.
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