Friday, May 29, 2015

Food law delayed illegally by NDA govt? Petition before SC

Has the NDA government illegally delayed providing subsidised food and other benefits to the poor under the National Food Security Law through executive orders that subvert the law and the Parliamentary decisions? A petition before the SC claims so. 

A petition challenging alleged illegal delay in implementation of many benefits under the National Food Security Act by the NDA government has been filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) before the Supreme Court. The petitioners have pleaded for immediate implementation of the law by the centre and the state governments.

The law, passed by the UPA, required that its provisions be implemented within 365 days of the passage of the legislation. But the government has delayed the implementation of the law through administrative orders.PUCL has challenged the legality of delaying the application of the law and the provisions under it through executive orders when the main law provided otherwise. They have said any delay in implementation required a legislative amendment by the Parliament.

PUCL is the petitioner in the on-going case in the Supreme Court in which the judiciary had passed several orders over the years expanding the food security benefits. The court had suggested that the PIL on the implementation of the Act could be filed separately before it. The petitioners have said the law was to be implemented by July 5, 2014 but administrative orders passed by the government in June 2014, October 2014 and March 2015 to delay the law came into force.

The law provided for a minimum Rs 6,000 cash benefit to pregnant and lactating women universally but the government has  instead proposed to do so in a phased manner, making the scheme that would channel the cash transfer conditional on its decision to provide funds or not. Similarly the ICDS scheme and the Mid-day meal scheme which too fall under the law now have not been fully implemented the petitioners have pointed out.

They have pleaded that the list of beneficiaries as per the Socio Economic Caste Census for subsidised grain be finalised immediately and the grains be distributed as per law based on objective criteria to identify the beneficiaries.

It has asked that the maternity benefit scheme should be universalised as required by law and not be subject to arbitrary conditions put by the government through executive orders. It has asked that the government should provide adequate funds and grains to make it possible to implement all the provisions of the law. This is expected to challenge the decision of the Union government to cut down on funds for centrally sponsored schemes under the 2015-16 budget even before it rejigs the financing responsibility between the centre and the states.

While asking for full implementation of the ICDS scheme as well the petitioners have pleaded that as per law all children between the age of 6 months to 6 years and all pregnant and lactating women should be provided appropriate nutrition at the anganwadi. Similarly, as per the law, they have asked children between the age of 6-14 approaching a school should be provided mid-day meals.