Supreme Court Judge, Justice P S Narasimha on Friday opted to recuse himself from hearing a plea filed by a political party, seeking a directive from the Centre to ensure adequate funds for states to implement the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
The case was scheduled before a bench comprising Justices P S Narasimha and Aravind Kumar. As the matter was brought forward, Justice Narasimha disclosed his prior involvement in the case as a lawyer, indicating that the matter needed to be brought before Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud to constitute a new bench.
Justice Narasimha’s elevation to the Supreme Court was on the recommendation of the collegium. Advocate Prashant Bhushan represented the petitioner party.
In a fresh plea, Swaraj Abhiyan asserted that there is a significant crisis affecting millions of workers under the MGNREGA across the country, with accrued wages and negative balances prevalent in most states. The plea highlighted that as of November 26, 2021, state governments faced a shortfall of Rs 9,682 crore, exhausting 100 percent of the allocated funds for the year prematurely.
Despite this funding shortfall, it stressed the imperative of adhering to the law and referred to a previous apex court judgment regarding MGNREGA wage payments.
The plea advocated for directives to the Centre to establish a mechanism ensuring adequate state funds for the program on a monthly basis, utilizing the previous year’s highest demand month as a benchmark for advance funding.
Additionally, it sought compliance with Ministry of Rural Development instructions regarding work registration for laborers, along with automatic unemployment allowance payments within 15 days of work demand.
Furthermore, it urged directives for the clearance of pending wage, material, and administrative payments within 30 days, as well as compensation for delayed wage payments in accordance with MGNREGA provisions.
Swaraj Abhiyan, formerly an NGO, initially filed a PIL in the apex court in 2015, seeking various reliefs for rural poor and farmers, subsequently submitting an interim application in the same plea.