Direct cash transfers: SC notice to Centre, states

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose sought a response from the authorities on the writ petition filed by Pentapati Pulla Rao, who fought unsuccessfully from Eluru Parliamentary constituency in Andhra Pradesh on behalf of the Janasena Party.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Centre, the Election Commission of Karnataka and other state governments on a writ petition challenging the validity of various direct cash transfer schemes, including the PM Kisan Nidhi Yojana, before and during the poll process.

The Election Commission and Union government failed to implement the directions of the Supreme Court given in the 'S Subramaniam Balaji Vs State of Tamilnadu & Ors' (2013) for framing guidelines to deal with bribery of voters and corrupt practices by political parties.

The parties in power at Centre and states have distributed direct cash through various schemes to women, farmers, students which has adversely affected ‘Right of Equal Participation of each Citizen in Polity’, the petitioner claimed.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose sought a response from the authorities on the writ petition filed by Pentapati Pulla Rao, who fought unsuccessfully from Eluru Parliamentary constituency in Andhra Pradesh on behalf of the Janasena Party.

The petitioner contended that the Election Commission has adopted different codes for different states. It has accepted the request made by the Union government for the implementation of ‘PM Kisan Nidhi Yojna’ and also allowed Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand to implement various DBT Schemes. But, the Election Commission has objected to similar schemes initiated by Karnataka, Odisha and West Bengal.

Senior advocate Santosh Paul, along with advocate Sravan Kumar, appearing for Rao, cited the example of Andhra Pradesh, where due to lack of guidelines by the Election Commission, the government transferred Rs 9400 Crores, that is, Rs 10,000 each to 94 lakhs women self help group members in the name of Pasupu Kumkuma scheme. The programme was launched in January 2019 with a clear schedule to transfer money during the election process.

The petitioner claimed the genesis of direct cash transfer before the elections started in Telangana in 2018 with the party in power launching 'Raythu Bandhu' and subsequently getting a thumping majority.

He sought a declaration that the implementation of Direct Cash Transfer schemes before and during election process such as PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, Pasupu Kumkuma, NTR Atmabandhu, Raythu Bandhu, KALIA, Mukhya Mantri Krishi Yojana etc as illegal, unconstitutional and contrary to Article 14 (equality), 21 (life and liberty), 112, 202 (annual financial statements of Centre, states) of the Constitution.

The petitioner sought a direction to the Election Commission to fix a minimum time, preferably six months to implement schemes which have an impact on free and fair elections such as freebies, Direct Cash Transfer schemes, welfare schemes by political parties in power before the announcement of the election schedule.

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