The Supreme Court Friday reproached the Centre for “unconscionable delay” in release of funds for MGNREGA scheme and directed it to set up monitoring committees to ensure implementation of all social welfare legislation, including the food security law.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and N V Ramana also pulled up the Centre for not giving compensation to workers for delayed payment for work under MGNREGA in a drought-like situation, and said it “does not behove a welfare state” and that “social justice has been thrown out of the window”.
The apex court said it was extremely unfortunate that the government had no provision for providing compensation to the workers, and it was regrettable that it cleared the pending wage bill for 2015-16 only during the pendency of the case. It ordered the Centre to release all outstanding funds for MGNREGA to the states and directed it to pay compensation for delayed wages to farmers in drought-hit areas.
The court further directed the Centre to ensure that the Central Employment Guarantee Council is immediately constituted under provisions of the MNREG Act within a maximum period of 60 days and asked it to proactively request state governments to establish the State Employment Guarantee Council within 45 days.
“The state cannot say that it is not bound to follow the law and cannot adhere to statutory provisions enacted by Parliament and create a smokescreen of a lack of finances or some other cover-up. The rule of law binds everyone, including the state,” it said, while issuing a string of directives to the Centre, state governments and RBI for strictly implementing various schemes meant for farmers and drought-affected population.
In three separate judgments passed on a PIL filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan, the court cautioned the governments against “alarming consequences” of not implementing policies and schemes such as fodder bank, crop loan restructuring, public distribution system, midday meal and employment guarantee.
Noting that at least one-fourth of the country’s population was affected by drought, the court directed state governments to take steps to ensure that at least the statutory requirement of foodgrains made under the National Food Security (NFS) Act was made available to people, including those not having ration cards. It asked the states to appoint commissioners for effective implementation of provisions of the National Food Security Act and strengthening of public distribution system, especially in drought-hit areas.
The bench also directed the government to set up a Central Employment Guarantee Council as envisaged in the statute and ensure compensation for crop loss in such areas, and that midday meal should be continued throughout the summer in drought-affected areas.
The court, however, refused to appoint court commissioners for implementation of its directions and asked the Centre to submit a status report by July 25.