On Monday, the Kerala High Court stayed the Election Commission’s order to stop the distribution of special rice kits by the state government, reported Live Law. However, it should be done following the model code of conduct that is in place for the Assembly election in April, the Court added.
The Election Commission (EC) had directed the state government to stop distribution of rice kits after receiving a complaint from the Opposition that it violated the model code of conduct. After this, the state government filed a petition in the High Court challenging the EC’s decision.
The case was heard by a single bench consisting of Justice PV Asha on Monday morning. Additional Advocate General Ranjith Thampan submitted that the food kits were intended for the festivals of Easter, Vishu and Ramzan, and that similar distributions were done last Onam. He said that the model code of conduct does not apply to ongoing programmes and argued that the decision was taken before the announcement of the election. No one knew the election would happen in April as it is usually held in May, he said.
The HC noted that the decision to distribute special rice kits for Easter-Vishu-Ramzan was made on February 4, much before the election date was announced. Auctions for the rice from the Food Corporation of India had already been carried out, Live Law reported the Court as saying. The payments had to be made before March 31 and it would not be possible to ask the EC for a fresh sanction, the Court said.
Ranjith Thampan also spoke about the precedents in the High Court, quoting the KM Babu vs Election Commission of India case (2006), in which the HC allowed implementation of pay revisions that were declared before the announcement of elections that year.
Advocate Deepu Lal Mohan, the EC’s standing counsel, said that the direction to stop the distribution of rice kits was made to ensure that the ruling party was not playing unfair by distributing it so close to the elections.