New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled
up the Centre for limiting the number of below poverty line
(PDS) people in a state to 36 per cent of its population as
per the Planning Commission`s recommendations.
Seeking the government`s rationale to cap the number
of BPL card holders in the states, a bench of justices Dalveer
Bhandari and Deepak Verma said, "We fail to understand the
rationale and justification for the cap fixed by the Planning
It asked Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran,
who appeared for the Centre, to "respond to the court on the
rationality and justification of putting a cap."
The bench also expressed concern over large-scale
pilferage from the Public Distribution System, pointed out by
the Wadhwa Committee, which examined the issue, and said the
computerisation of the entire system is urgently needed.
"Computerisation has to be put in place as soon as
possible. Looking at the grave urgency of the matter, we want
the ASG to take instruction for a high-powered committee which
can take assistance of other organisations concerned to ensure
that the computerisation is carried expeditiously," the bench
During the hearing, the court also remarked that going
by the current pace of computerisation, it will not be
completed even in ten years.
"If you want to do it, then do it, otherwise we would
pass orders. It cannot go on for years. We want to conclude
it," the bench said.
On this, the ASG assured the court that he would take
up the matter with authorities concerned.
The bench also expressed its concern over the figures
given by the Centre and respective states over the number of
people falling in BPL categories.
"The figures given by the Centre are in great contrast
with the figures given by the states " the bench said,
indicating that there are large number of people who are
entitled for BPL status but are not getting the benefit.
It also mentioned an affidavit filed by the Uttar
Pradesh government which said as per the Centre`s standard, it
has fixed the maximum number of BPL ration card holders at
106.7 lakh, although the number of BPL families is much higher
in the state and eligible BPL card holders are not getting the
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation by
Peoples` Union for Civil Liberties, complaining about massive
irregularities and corruption in the country`s PDS mechanism
and wastage of huge quantities of grain due to poor storage
The bench also flayed the government for following
the 2004 criterion for indentifying BPL families. The 2004
criterion stipulated that those with daily earning of less
than Rs 12 in rural area and Rs 17 in urban areas would fall
in the BPL category.
"Do you think that in 2011, Rs 17 and Rs 12 are a
realistic figure seeing the current rate of inflation. Even
the government of India has increased the salaries of its
employees twice in a year. How can it be realistic?" the bench
said, adjourning the matter till April 4.
During last hearing on March 16, the bench had asked
the Centre as to why the tax payers` money should be used for
subidising food grains under the public distribution system
(PDS) for those who are above the poverty line.
"We don`t understand the logic as to why a person, let
us say earning an annual income of Rs 10 crore, should be
(given) subsidy (by using) the tax payers` money for
distribution of the grains.
"We can understand the necessity of subsidising those
who belong to the AAY (Antodaya Anna Yojana) and BPL families
should be given the benefits, but why should others be given
the benefit from the limited resources?" the bench had asked.
It had also asked the government to explain the steps
taken by it for computerisation of the PDS delivery mechanism
to ensure fool-proof implementation of the welfare measure.