Supreme Court says do away with fair price shops

Supreme Court

Favouring the idea of doing away with private fair price shops for food grains distribution under PDS system, the Supreme Court today asked the government to explore a mechanism to put in place the recommendations of the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) till it becomes a law.

The court said it was concerned with the effectiveness of the public distribution system (PDS) and since the Centre was in agreement with the Justice D P Wadhwa Committee's suggestions, there was a need to keep in mind its "broad recommendations" and the "road map" shown by the NFSB to administratively put a mechanism through an executive order in the interregnum.

A bench comprising justices T S Thakur and Fakkir M Kalifulla was of the view that no one system of PDS can be 'perfect' and it should be left to the states to ideally run it by state-level corporations, panchayati raj institutions, cooperatives and registered women's self-help groups as recommended in the Wadhwa report.

The bench, which accepted the findings of the Wadhwa committee on the ills prevalent in the present PDS, clearly stated, "There was a need to switch over from private shops where there have been "large-scale pilferage" as "the food grains are not reaching the real beneficiaries".

The court, which said its aim was to "bridge the gap between the present and the future in view of the pending bill," took into account the submission of Attorney General G E Vahanvati that "nothwithstanding the fact that NFSB is pending in Parliament, its provisions can be implemented by way of an executive order in the interregnum".

He told the bench the implementation of the provisions of the bill entails an additional central financial burden of around Rs 23,000 crore on account of food subsidy and exact amount of subsidy may vary depending upon the final shape of the NFSB while getting its approval in Parliament.

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