Court allows sale of subsidised rice in poll-bound Kerala

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan announced the scheme in the assembly Feb 24 and the official orders on the scheme were issued Feb 25 - three days before the model code of conduct for the poll came into force March 1.

The bench headed by Chief Justice J. Chelameswar gave the order in response to a petition filed by Communist Party of India legislator Rajaji Mathew Thomas. Till the announcement of the new scheme last month, rice was being provided at Rs.2 per kg to only those ration card holders who belong to the below poverty line category. Now, the subsidised rice will be available to all ration card holders.

Soon after the scheme was announced last month, the Congress-led opposition criticised the state government action to go ahead with it to please the electorate ahead of the polls. Reacting to the high court decision, petitioner Thomas said: "This was never a new scheme... instead it was only an extension of an already running scheme."

It was early this month that the Election Commission asked the state government not to go ahead with the Rs.2 per kg rice scheme announced by the ruling Left government. The poll panel said it violated the model code of conduct that came into force March 1.

Finance Minister Thomas Issac, who has taken credit for the scheme, said: "This is a major setback for the opposition and in a week's time all cardholders will get rice at Rs 2 a kg."

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