On Wednesday, a division bench of the Madras High Court Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice P Rajamanickam stayed a scheme of government led by Chief Minister K Palaniswamy in which it decided to distribute 1000 rupees to all the ration card holders as a Pongal gift.
The scheme would also have facilitated gift hampers for ration card holders at all the ration shops. There were around 2.01 crore ration card holders who were supposed to receive the benefit under the scheme, to be implemented at an estimated cost of Rs. 258 crores.
The Court during the hearing of a petition filed by activist J Daniel Jesudass restained the government from extending the scheme to the people who are not below the poverty line.
Activist Jesudass terming the scheme as misconceived, challenged the decision of the government to distribute such a huge sum of money ignoring the financial status of the state. The petition drew Court's attention to the loan liability of the state which was almost thrice the tax revenue. It was also alleged in the petition that the total loan liability of the state exceeded that of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, and the state itself was in dire need of funds, including rehabilitation measures in cyclone Gaja-hit areas.
The division bench of the Court, citing the same, questioned the government that how it could recklessly splurge government money in the name of a festival when the state could do well with the same funds in its rehabilitation process of the areas affected by cyclone Gaja and further added that the government can also improve the infrastructure of the state with the amount.
The bench clarified that they would not have questioned the scheme if the political parties were giving their money but the government money has to be used for the welfare of all rather than being distributed among the multitude on festivals. The bench wondered what a high court judge or an advocate general would do with a 1000 rupees pongal bonus declared by the government.
The bench clarified further that it had no issues with the government assisting the economically weaker class but it directed the government to restrict the scheme to the people below the poverty line only.