How will the household ration delivery program prevent corruption in the public distribution system? Delhi government’s High Court quiz; Judgment reserved

The Delhi High Court reserved judgment in the plea filed by Delhi Sarkari Ration Dealers Sangh, opposing the state government’s plan to deliver rations to homes.

A divisional bench of Judges Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh today asked the Delhi government how the proposed program is better at preventing corruption in the distribution of food grains, compared to the existing program involving Fair Priced Shops (FPS).

Like Senior Counsel Dr AM Singhvi, appearing for the Delhi government, claimed that the door-to-door delivery program was aimed at preventing leaks in the existing system, the judiciary noted,

You wield the entire FPS community with the same brush. Are they all corrupt? Depending on the LG, you are only replacing one group of people with another. So how are you going to make sure these new people aren’t corrupted? Do these people come from all over the planet?

The Chamber clarified that it was only trying to determine the reasoning behind the proposed regime and that its questions may not affect the legality of the regime.

He continued to ask the reasons why offered guarantees such as geolocation, biometric verification and iris scanning cannot be introduced into the existing system.

Singhvi then argued that the Delhi government does not claim that its program will provide 100% disinfection. “There will be leaks, but I have the right to change the system to the extent that this leak is minimized. My rectification will make it much better. In any case, I have the right to change the policy even if there will be leaks in it. There is no prohibition in the National Food Security Law (NFS Law),” he said.

At this point, lawyer Asmita Singh informed the Chamber that the verification guarantee has been introduced to the SPF, however, it has been misused and appropriate legal action has been taken in this regard.

In response to this, Judge Sanghi stated

The law will therefore follow its course. Anyone who engages in any irregularity can be prosecuted … this could also happen with your new bidders. On what basis do you claim minimized corruption? They are also human beings only, of Indian origin, sharing the same genetic pool …

The judiciary also heard Lawyer Visheshwar Shrivastava, who asserted that the Delhi government cannot be considered a “state government” for the purposes of the NFS Act, as Article 2 (22) defines the state, in relation to a territory of the Union, like its administrator, in this case the LG.

He added that in any event, the Delhi government is bound by the directives issued by the central government, under section 3 (3) of the NFS Act.

Shrivastava further pointed out that “Targeted Public Distribution System” under the Act means the system of distributing essential products to ration card holders “through fair-price stores”. Thus, he argued that the Delhi government cannot insist on home delivery of the ration.

On the issue of leaks in the current system, he argued that there are many checks and balances in NFS law and that if a person engages in illegal activities, their license can be canceled. So, there is no perpetuity per se, he argued.

Fund

Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal had blocked Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s “Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana Scheme” for home delivery of rations to the poor. The Center asserted that fair-price store owners were an integral part of the national food safety law and that the Delhi government’s proposed program watered down the architecture of the law.

He also said the program was a “progressive reform” for targeted delivery of food grains to marginalized people and was in line with the spirit of the National Food Security Law (NFS Law) to “ensure delivery or effective supply of food grains to the beneficiaries “.