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Mamata Banerjee’s poll ‘lollipop’ ‘Duare Ration’ scheme legally void, says Calcutta HC

A big setback for Trinamool Supremo and West Bengal state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after the Calcutta High Court imposed a ban on her government’s Duare Ration scheme that was launched in November 2021, as a part of the Trinamool’s election manifesto in the West Bengal Assembly election last year. The scheme had run into huge controversy as people who were supposed to get the advantage of the scheme said they did not get ration or the ration they received was below the standards to be consumed.

Coming down heavily on the state government, the court said, “In view of our discussion supra we are constrained to hold, in fine, that Duare Ration Scheme is ultra vires the National Food Security Act, 2013 and is therefore a nullity in the eye of law”.

The order also mentioned that if the NFS Act is amended by the Parliament for doorstep delivery of food grains, only then such a state can bring such a scheme.

Just after the implementation of the election manifesto by Trinamool government, a petition was filed against the Duare Ration scheme at Calcutta High Court in 2021, terming it to be illegal. However, a single bench had found nothing to be illegal in the scheme and let it continue. The order was challenged.

Under the scheme, vehicles carrying rations reach people’s neighbourhoods and are stationed 500 metres from their residences. The people could collect their rations from these vehicles.

A division bench of Justices Chitta Ranjan Dash and Aniruddha Roy held that the Duare Ration scheme is “ultra vires of the National Food Security (NFS) Act, 2013” and “is, therefore, a nullity in the eye of the law.” It added that the scheme has “no legal validity.”

A large number of fair price dealers moved court and pointed out that it would be difficult to implement the scheme. The Calcutta High Court, however, dismissed the case. Later, a section of ration dealers filed a fresh case before a division bench.

Under the scheme, each ration dealer was allowed to appoint at least two people to help them deliver rations to the citizens. Half of the salary of these workers was to be paid by the state government.

The order stated that no state government can supply ration to doorstep. It added that the scheme has “no legal validity”.