NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday refused to entertain the Centre’s plea against the Delhi High Court order directing the AAP government not to stop or curtail the supply of foodgrains or flour to fair price shops.
A bench of Justices L N Rao and B R Gavai said the September 27 order under challenge is interim and the matter is listed before the high court on November 22 and therefore it would not like to entertain it.
“We are not inclined to entertain this matter as it is still pending before the high court,” the bench said and urged the Delhi High Court to dispose of the matter on November 22 itself with no parties taking any adjournment.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said this matter has wide ramifications and is against the provisions of the National Food Security Act.
He said the Act provides a mechanism for the distribution of foodgrains to the beneficiaries but the question arises that can a state government deviate from the mode of distribution prescribed under the central law.
As per the law, the foodgrains are allotted by the Centre to the Fair Price Shops which in turn are distributed among the beneficiaries.
“What the Delhi government is proposing to do under the scheme is to select private agents to deliver foodgrains to the door steps of the beneficiaries,” he said, adding that the Delhi government says that the grains will be converted to flour and distributed to the people.
The bench said that these arguments can very well be raised before the High Court.
Mehta sought stay of the High Court order and said that it would have a devastating effect as the Delhi government scheme can disrupt the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card Scheme’ launched last year as it cannot be verified by any means how much quantity is given to whom.
He added that doorstep delivery is not permitted under the law and can only be allowed by an amendment to its provisions.
“The Fair Price Shops are registered with a Central electronic network and statutory authorities monitor their functioning. Delhi’s scheme will disrupt this mechanism,” he said, adding that there will be no accountability as to what quantity and quality these private parties will give to the people.
The bench said that nothing is going to change in a week and it will be appropriate if parties make their arguments before the high court.
Mehta pointed out that the High Court has permitted something which is not allowed under the Act.
“We are not concerned with fair price shops dealers. The Act only provides doorstep delivery to people with disabilities. We are on a larger question. There are people from marginalised sections. There are rickshaw pullers, migrant workers, slum dwellers who do not have any permanent addresses. How will they get ration? We represent them,” the Solicitor General said.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the AAP government, said that arrangements are being made for implementation of the scheme.
He said the plea before the high court was filed by the fair price shop dealers association and not by the Centre and no one from the central government had objected when the high court order was passed.
Singhvi said that a similar scheme was approved in West Bengal by the Calcutta High Court and even Delhi High Court can very well hear it and around 90 per cent of beneficiaries in Delhi have opted for door step delivery scheme which is an optional one.
He said this scheme will stop any leakages and would benefit the beneficiaries.
“If the liquor can be sold through home delivery then why can’t the ration be delivered,” he said, adding that a strong lobby was in play to stall the scheme.
The top court also disposed of another plea filed by ‘Delhi Sarkari Ration Dealers Sangh’ against the same order on the same ground.
On November 12, the Centre had alleged that the AAP government is trying to run a parallel distribution scheme.
The Centre in it’s plea has said that the high court, without affording an opportunity to it, reversed its order of March 22 allowing the Delhi government to curtail the supply of food grain under the National Food Security Act 2013 to the fair price shops.
The high court by its order dated March 22 had directed the Delhi government not to curtail or stop the supply of the existing PDS distributors while implementing the Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana.
However the high court on September 27 modified, reversed the same without considering that the scheme promulgated by the Delhi government “is an attempt to run a parallel distribution scheme utilising the resources…served under the NFSA 2013 and the same shall have adverse impact upon the beneficiaries of the NFSA, 2013″, the Centre said.
The petition stated that the high court has passed the interim order placing sole reliance on the submissions and statements by the counsel for the Delhi government and has erred in not appreciating the provisions of the NFSA, 2013 and the adverse effect that shall be caused by the implementation of the Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar ration Yojana.
The high court in its order dated September 27 modified its earlier order dated March 22, 2021 in which it had directed the Delhi government not to stop or curtail the supply of foodgrains or flour to the members of the ‘Delhi Sarkari Ration Dealers Sangh, Delhi’.




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