The Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed the Secretary to the Government, Food and Civil Supplies Department, and the Director of the Civil Supplies Office of the Commissioner of Civil Supplies to implement its directions to disburse arrears, if any, payable to the Ration Dealers, for distribution of COVID-19 Free Food Kits and Onam kits.
Justice N. Nagaresh was dealing with a contempt plea, filed by the Organizing Secretary of All Kerala Retail Ration Dealers' Association stating that the Department has not complied with High Court's direction dated February 2, 2022.
The bench said that if a compliance report is not filed within a month, i.e., by December 23, the officers will have to appear in person before the Court.
In the light of the raging pandemic, the State issued a Government Order in 2020 to supply free Food-Kits to ration cardholders and others. The distribution of these kits was to be done by ARDs appointed under the Kerala Rationing Order. The expenditure for the same was to be met from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.
"In the case of Free Food-Kit distribution, neither willingness was called for from the ARDs nor the ARDs have came forward themselves expressing willingness to do the service without payment. The Government required the ARDs to distribute Free Food-Kits and even indicated that non-distribution of Kits in time will be viewed seriously. In the circumstances, the Government will not be justified in treating the Free Food-Kit distribution as voluntary service by ARDs," High Court had said in its February order.
While hearing the instant contempt plea, the High Court found that "no convincing explanation" has been put forth by the respondents for delay in complying with its directions.
The case has been posted for further consideration on 23rd December 2022.