Granting interim relief to authorised fair price shops and ration card holders, Bombay High Court restrained the authorities from cancelling or reducing the quota of kerosene allotted to fair price shops if they fail to comply with directions in a letter dated November 21, written by the Tahsildar, Miraj of Sangli district.
In the said letter, authorised fair price shops were called upon to collect data of Aadhar cards, bank account details, copies of bank pass books and cell phone numbers of ration card holders allotted to them. It also said failure to furnish the said data by 5 pm on November 21 itself, would lead to cancellation of the kerosene quota.
Furthermore, in a letter dated November 28, by the same Tahsildar, it was stated that if ration card holders allotted for the said fair price shops were not Aadhar card holders, then foodgrain will not be given to them.
The latter communication is significant as the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that Aadhar card cannot be mandatory.
The petitioners expressed their apprehension before the division bench of Justice AS Oka and Justice Anuja Prabhudessai that the release of quota of foodgrain and kerosene to authorised fair price shops will be reduced or stopped if they fail to comply with the communication received by them.
Although the AGP appearing for the state government informed the court that supply of foodgrain has not been reduced thus far on account of non-compliance, the court observed that the affidavit-in-reply filed by the state showed that quota of kerosene was reduced.
The bench also observed that the AGP had failed to point out any document to show that it is the duty of the persons holding authorisation to run fair price shops to collect data of Aadhar cards, bank pass books, cell phone numbers etc.
The court said: “Prima facie it is not a part of their duty to collect such data. Hence they cannot be penalised for non-compliance.”
Hence, by way of interim relief, the bench directed the authorities concerned to restore any quota of kerosene that may have been reduced or curtailed. Also, no further curtailment in quota will take place until further orders.
Read the Order here.
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