Allahabad HC quashes UP govt order on fair price dealership

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Lucknow, May 24 (PTI) The Allahabad High Court on Monday set aside a government order in which it had empowered district magistrates to allot the license of fair price dealership preferably to self-help groups in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh.

The court held that the said order is in conflict with the earlier government order dated August 5, 2019 which gave powers to the gram sabhas to elect a resident as the distributor of food grains meant for the Public Distribution System in rural areas.

Hearing five writ petitions on the issue, a bench of Justice AR Masoodi said, 'The government order of July 7, 2020 undoubtedly is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India and the provisions of the Food Security Act 2013, as it excludes the participation of eligible village residents and other juristic persons such as cooperative societies or gram panchayats at par with the self-help groups.' 'The individual's right of consideration as compared to that of a juristic person for employment or grant of license by the state stands on equal footing and no one can be eliminated or ousted in order to promote a monopoly in favour of any particular category of persons like the situation at hand,' the bench added.

The court said the state government has not projected any clarity in the matter of self-help groups except that they are granted a unique identity number by some agency known as 'National Rural Livelihood Development Mission'.

Taking note of difficulties being faced by the poor in procuring quality food during the coronavirus pandemic, it urged the Supreme Court and other benches in the Allahabad High Court that are hearing Covid-related cases to take up the issue of PDS and ensure the accountability of governance in relation to quantity and quality related issues that have undoubtedly multiplied manifold constituting a cognizable cause.

In the order, the judge said, 'The judiciary owes a legal obligation to the underprivileged citizens for which the constitutional courts are duty bound to go into the state's obligation relating to the supply of quality food grains during this crisis failing which the health hazard shall assume unprecedented dimensions and may render the nation helpless.' PTI CORR NAV SNE