Chennai: In a major setback to the state government, the Madras high court has restrained distribution of Rs 1,000 as Pongal cash gift to a section of ration card holders.

Passing an interim order, a division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and P Rajamanickam, before which a petition by activist J Daniel Jesudass came up for hearing, said the Ccurt was of the prima facie opinion that giving the Pongal cash gift to all the ration cardholders is nothing but a wastage of public money for non productive purpose.

The bench has stopped the government from issuing the cash gift to people holding ration cards categorised as Non Priority House Hold only for sugar (NPHH-S) and No Commodity — above poverty line wherein no commodities are distributed (NC).

However, there is no bar on distribution of cash gift to the people holding ration cards categorised as — PHH (priority household below poverty line), PHH-AAY (below poverty line lower middle income group) and NPHH (between the poverty line and the lower middle income groups).

In the petition, Daniel challenged the government’s decision to provide the cash gift to all the ration card holders irrespective of their financial status.

He said on account of the report of RBI coupled with the fact that every year the financial deficit is widening and there is absolutely no need or necessity to give cash gift of Rs 1,000 to all the card holders and such a policy decision has no nexus with the object sought to be achieved. The state government is facing a serious financial crisis in recent times, which is evident from the fact that the Government has not paid the relief funds to the Gaja Cyclone affected people in the coastal districts.

According to the petitioner, every year the loan and interest liabilities are going up and it is going beyond control. The financial experts had also expressed deep concern about the increase in the uncontrolled loan liability due to the undeserving freebies and according to them, the allocation of Rs 28,282 crores towards capital expenditure is less than the interest liability of Rs 29,624 crores.

The petitioner stated that he is not against the policy decision to give gifts to the deserving people, but giving such a gift to all the cardholders, irrespective of their financial position and status, would create unnecessary financial crisis.

Counsel for the petitioner N.Manoharan, said there is no need or necessity to give cash gift of Rs 1,000 to every cardholder regardless of their financial position and status.

Advocate General Vijay Narayan, appearing for the authorities, submitted that it is the policy decision of the Government to distribute articles for preparation of ”Pongal” and also to give cash gift of Rs 1,000 to each cardholder. And in the absence of any arbitrary or malafide exercise of power, such a policy decision cannot be normally interfered into by this Court, he added.

The bench said distribution of freebies insofar as the State is concerned becomes an order of the day and whichever party is in power had resorted / resorting to distribute all such freebies and on account of resorting to such freebies distribution, crores and crores of rupees had been spent.

The bench said even after 70 years of independence, basic infrastructure and amenities such as potable water, good roads, electricity and quality education to the students etc. are yet to be provided and provision of those basic facilities and amenities still remain as a dream, whereas tonnes and tonnes of money have been spent towards freebies without any worthwhile return.

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