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Functions Of Ministries Don't Get Transferred To NDMA During National Disaster : Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
24 March 2021 5:06 AM GMT
Functions Of Ministries Dont Get Transferred To NDMA During National Disaster : Supreme Court
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In the loan moratorium case, the Supreme Court observed that the powers and functions of Ministries do not get transferred to the National Disaster Management Authority in the event of a national disaster."...on conjoint reading of the relevant provisions of the DMA 2005... it cannot be said that the functions of all the Ministries are to be discharged by the NDMA which should take decision...

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In the loan moratorium case, the Supreme Court observed that the powers and functions of Ministries do not get transferred to the National Disaster Management Authority in the event of a national disaster.

"...on conjoint reading of the relevant provisions of the DMA 2005... it cannot be said that the functions of all the Ministries are to be discharged by the NDMA which should take decision qua the area in each Ministry. It also cannot be said that the functions of the Ministries will stand transferred to the NDMA and will have to be discharged by the NDMA either directly or indirectly for the purpose of disaster management. Various Ministries under the Central Government have to take various relief measures within their respective spheres for remedying the effects of the disaster", the Court observed.

The Court further observed that the National Disaster Management Plan would be for a long term and even with respect to disaster to happen in future, while rejecting the contention that that there is no "National Plan" drawn up for the disaster management due to Covid­19 pandemic and that National Disaster Management Authority has not performed its duty under the Disaster Management Act. 

The bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah made these observations while disposing off a batch of petitions which sought various reliefs such as waiver of interest, extension of moratorium etc.

Supreme Court Bars Charging Compound Interest Or Penal Interest On Any Borrower During Loan Moratorium; Refuses Moratorium Extension

In this case, the contention raised was that the Section 11 mandates duty to draw up a plan for disaster management for the whole country, but there is no national plan prepared while considering the disaster- Covid­19 pandemic. Opposing this argument, the Centre contended that the National Plan made in November, 2019, envisages rarest of the rare "global catastrophe risk events" which includes Covid-19 pandemic.

To address these rival contentions, the bench referred to various provisions of the Act and observed thus

Therefore, on conjoint reading of the relevant provisions of the DMA 2005, which are referred to hereinabove, it cannot be said that the functions of all the Ministries are to be discharged by the NDMA which should take decision qua the area in each Ministry. It also cannot be said that the functions of the Ministries will stand transferred to the NDMA and will have to be discharged by the NDMA either directly or indirectly for the purpose of disaster management. Various Ministries under the Central Government have to take various relief measures within their respective spheres for remedying the effects of the disaster.

From the pleadings, it is borne out that in fact there is already a National Disaster Management Plan prepared even prior to the Covid­19 pandemic. Under the National Plan, there is a National Disaster Management Institutional Mechanism, which is reproduced hereinabove. The said plan also envisages nodal ministries for management of different disasters.

For example, if the disaster is due to drought, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare would be the nodal agency; if the disaster is due to floods, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs would be the nodal agency and if the disaster is due to "biological emergencies", the Ministry of Health and Welfare would be the nodal agency. The disaster due to Covid­19 pandemic would fall under disaster due to "biological emergencies".

However, it appears that Covid­19 pandemic disaster is of such a nature that it could not be confined to one nodal ministry and whatever measures/reliefs are required to be taken/given are provided by every Ministry in each and every day needed. Therefore, various reliefs/packages are provided by different Ministries, such as, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare etc. It also appears that even considering the very nature of the pandemic which would have PAN India impact, empowered groups were constituted by the National Disaster Management Authority.

The bench observed that when there is already in  existence a National Plan, which might have been prepared even prior to the Covid­19 pandemic, it cannot be said that there is no National Plan by the NDMA at all.

"National Plan would be for a long term and even with respect to disaster to happen in future. For every disaster, there shall not be a new National Plan. National Plan would be comprehensive in nature which is already there in existence. Therefore, the submission of Shri Sibbal, learned Senior Advocate that there is no National Plan at all and therefore the NDMA has failed to perform its duty cannot be accepted."

Yet another contention raised was that the National Authority has not made any recommendation with regard to relief in the repayment of loans and/or for grant of fresh loans to persons affected by disaster on such concessional terms as may be appropriate. The petitioners contended that the NDMA has not stepped in despite the clear mandate under Section 13 of the Act.

"It is to be noted that even as per Section 13 of the Act, the National Authority "may" and "recommend" relief in repayment of loans or grant of fresh loans to the persons affected by disaster on such concessional terms as may be appropriate. Thereafter, as per the "views and recommendations" of the NDMA, RBI has come out with Resolution framework and on the basis of the same the lenders/bankers after getting the approval of their Board of Directors have come out with the policies. Thus, from the above, it cannot be said that NDMA has failed to perform its duty cast under Section 13 of the Act. From the above, it also cannot be said that there is no National Plan in existence at all.", the bench observed.

Case Details

Case Title : Small Scale Industrial Manufactures Association(Regd) v Union of India and connected cases.

Bench : Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah

Citation : LL 2021 SC 175

Click here to read/download judgment










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