Delhi HC says Fair price shop can’t be allotted to BPL card holders

New Delhi:  Wondering how a Below Poverty Line (BPL) card holder was given a fair price shop licence, the Delhi High Court ordered a departmental inquiry against the officers who issued him the BPL card. The court also cancelled the allotment of the shop.

Justice Manmohan, in the March 7 order, said the essential eligibility criteria stipulated that an applicant has to be financially sound for allotment of a Public Distribution System (PDS) outlet which “a BPL card holder cannot be”.

“Certainly, if the state has a scheme or reservation for the economically weaker sections or for the educated unemployed, then a BPL card holder can be considered for allotment. But as long as the essential eligibility criteria stipulates that an applicant has to be financially sound for allotment of a PDS outlet, this court is of the view that a BPL card holder cannot be considered for allotment of a fair price shop licence,” the court said.

The court expressed amazement that the man obtained a BPL card in one day and after a few days declared himself to be financially sound even without surrendering the BPL card.

“Consequently, this court directs the chief secretary of Delhi government to appoint a relatively senior officer to conduct a departmental inquiry against the officials who took the decision to allot the BPL card and fair price shop in question. If any official is found to be negligent or remiss in his duty, a suitable entry in his service record is directed to be made,” said the court.

The court was hearing a plea filed by one Poonam, who had applied for a fair price shop but was unsuccessful. The plea was filed against the Delhi government, department of food and supplies, and the man allotted the shop despite being a BPL card holder.

The petitioner told the court that allotment of a fair price shop to the man having a BPL card is violative of a rule of the Delhi Specified Articles (Regulation of Distribution) Order, 1981. It further alleged the government did not ascertain proper facts before issuing the shop licence.

However, the government counsel contended that elaborate procedures were followed by the department of food and supplies before awarding the fair price shop to the man.

The petitioner said for purpose of allocation of fair price shop, the man who was allotted the shop had shown a bank balance of Rs.70,315 as well as the ownership of a car and a house and paid advance rent of Rs.6,600 for the shop.

The court said the man cannot be “both a BPL card holder and at the same time own a car, house as well as bank balance of Rs.70,315 and pay rent of Rs.6,600 for a shop”.

“This court is of the view that a BPL card holder cannot be considered financially sound as the state (government) has devised the concept of BPL to provide state subsidy to support such sort of people,” said Justice Manmohan.