Calcutta High Court on Wednesday declared the West Bengal government’s “Duare Ration” scheme as illegal and against the National Food Security Act.
A division bench of Justices Aniruddha Roy and Chitta Ranjan Dash said, “We are, therefore, constrained to hold that the State Government has transgressed the limit of delegation by obliging the Fair Price Shop dealers to distribute the rations to the beneficiaries at their doorstep in absence of any authority to that effect in the enabling Act i.e. ‘NFS Act’.” “If the ‘NFS Act’ is amended by the wisdom of the Union Legislature i.e. Parliament for doorstep delivery of food grains to the beneficiaries or invest any such power to the State Government then only such a scheme can be made by the State and that can be said to be in sync with the enabling Act.,” the court said.
The Court noted that the outer limit of delivery of the State having been fixed in the enabling Act, the State on the pretext of welfare or to supplement the enabling Act cannot transgress that outer limit.
“The sovereign parliament in their wisdom have fixed the outer limit of delivery of foodstuffs after due regard to the aims and objectives of the Act. Various provisions have been made, which are essentially “machinery provisions” for proper monitoring, check on pilferage and reach out of the benefits to actual beneficiaries. The wisdom of the legislature cannot be questioned as to why fair price shop was chosen by the Act as outer limit of delivery and why they did not explore little further to fix it at the doorstep of the beneficiaries. We cannot hold that the distance from the fair price shop to the doorstep of the beneficiaries is an unexplored distance or an extra mile only. The legislature has not covered this extra mile or unexplored distance in it’s wisdom that legislative wisdom can 34 neither be questioned in “Judicial Review” nor the gap can be filled up by exercise of plenary power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India,” the HC said.
‘Duare Ration’ scheme was launched by the West Bengal government under which ration items were provided at the doorsteps of the beneficiaries.
‘Duare Ration’ scheme was part of the election manifesto of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government and was running in various places.
Last year in November, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched ‘Duare Ration’ scheme for doorstep delivery of rations.
The Chief Minister said that the scheme would benefit over 10 crore people in the state. It was one of the major poll promises of the Trinamool Congress during the 2021 state elections held in March-April.
According to the state government, the food grain will be supplied to the people through mobile vans. The van will reach 500 metre away for every locality in the state. The government has asked the panchayat, municipality and Municipal corporations to issue a helpline number for booking the foodgrain.