Subsidised foodgrain: SC disallows discrimination

New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday said the government could not differentiate between “one poor man and another poor man” while offering subsidised foodgrain under the targeted public distribution system.

The court said the central government could not deny ration card to an eligible person merely on the grounds that the allocation of quota of foodgrain for a particular tehsil or district had been exhausted.

The apex court bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice F.M.I Kalifulla said it was not getting any satisfactory answer from the government on the implementation of Justice D.P. Wadhwa Committee’s recommendation on revamping the public distribution system.

“We are not getting satisfactory answers from the government on the implementation of Justice Wadhwa Committee’s recommendation. If (allocation of foodgrain) is based on the population estimates, then it should mean that you will have to make additional allocations,” the judges said.

“Take it from us, your allocation must match the population estimates. How can you differentiate between one poor man and another poor man,” Justice Thakur told the Additional Solicitor General P.P. Malhotra.

Malhotra told the court that the government could not afford to increase the burden of the subsidy.

The court said if the government did not want to increase the quantum of subsidy but favoured expanding the base of beneficiaries then it would have to reduce the subsidy.

“It is a difficult decision. The moment you withdraw the subsidy and increase price (of subsidised foodgrain) you will lose the votes,” Justice Thakur told the government counsel.

Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for petitioner People’s Union for Civil Liberties, told the court that under the National Food Security Bill the government was in fact aiming to sell foodgrain at a price lower than the current one.

He told the court that all allocations of foodgrain for people below the poverty line were based on 1990.

Malhotra told the court that once the food security law was enacted, the resources for the allocation of foodgrain to people under the targeted public distribution system would be made available.

The court would next hear the matter May 3.

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