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Let there be no contest between the Centre and States: SC on Karnataka's plea for drought funds release

Notably, Tamil Nadu also filed a plea in the Supreme Court for a direction to the Centre to release of a sum of Rs 19,692.69 crore as financial assistance for the damage caused by cyclone 'Michaung' in December 2023, contending despite several requests, funds were not made available in violation of fundamental rights of the affected people.
shish Tripathi
Last Updated : 08 April 2024, 08:11 IST
Last Updated : 08 April 2024, 08:11 IST

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said the Centre and States should not fight over the release of funds while considering a plea by the Karnataka government to direct the Centre to release Rs 35,162 crore for drought relief in view of "grave humanitarian distress" and "calamity" of severe nature faced by the state.

"Let there be no contest between the Centre and States. We see various state governments filed petitions for it," a bench of Justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta said.

Attorney General R Venkatramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the Centre sought time from the court to resolve the matter.

Mehta said there is a "growing tendency" among the states to file such petitions.

"If somebody had spoken at some level, the problem could have been solved," Mehta said, questioning the time (alluding to ongoing election process) for filing the petition.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal for Karnataka submitted that the decision on the release of funds was supposed to be taken within a month, which was over in December.

"Let's hope with your interventions, the problem can be solved," the bench told the AG and the SG.

"Both the AG and the SG to take instructions and inform the court," the bench said, posting the matter after two weeks.

The Karnataka government referred to an application filed by it for making the Election Commission a party.

The court, however, said, "Once, we issue instructions, the EC would be bound by them".

Sibal sought issuance of formal notice, but, Mehta said it may not be required.

In its writ petition, the Karnataka government said the Union government's Ministry of Home Affairs has failed to take a final decision and release the financial assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) to the state for drought relief, though six months have lapsed since the filing of a report by the Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT).

Notably, Tamil Nadu also filed a plea in the Supreme Court for a direction to the Centre to release a sum of Rs 19,692.69 crore as financial assistance for the damage caused by cyclone 'Michaung' in December 2023, contending that despite several requests, funds were not made available in violation of the fundamental rights of the affected people.

The Karnataka government's plea contended agriculture is a primary source of livelihood for a large section of the state.

The present drought situation has damaged crops and affected livestock, leading to lower yields, reduced income for farmers, and increased food prices. The situation has major economic impact due to losses in agriculture, impacting jobs, incomes, and the overall economic growth of the state, the plea said.

The state claimed there was an inordinate delay by the MHA in convening high level committee meeting to approve the quantum of relief from NDRF.

The plea filed by advocate D L Chidananda contended the Centre's action in not releasing the financial assistance for drought arrangement as per the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) is ex-facie illegal, arbitrary and violative of fundamental rights guaranteed to its citizens under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

The Centre has not convened the high level committee to take action on the sub committee of the national executive committee’s report on the memorandums submitted by the state government seeking financial assistance, which has impaired the fundamental right to life of the people of the state, it said.

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Published 08 April 2024, 08:11 IST

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