The Supreme Court restrained the Assam government on Thursday from disbursing financial benefits under the chief minster’s Rs 500 crore-welfare schemes following allegations of large-scale corruption and favouritism.
A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur rapped the state for launching the schemes close to the assembly elections that are scheduled for May. None of the programs shall be implemented until further orders, the bench told the counsel for Assam.
The court asked the state to give it a transparent, credible method to be followed while extending the benefits. “This is a very unfortunate and serious situation where hundreds of crores of rupees are being spent from public money through administrative orders”, the bench told senior counsel Kapil Sibal, who was representing Assam.
“It appears that the schemes were launched for electoral gimmick to suit vested interests in the state,” the bench commented while hearing an NGO’s appeal against the Gauhati High Court order that declined to stop the Assam government from implementing its social welfare schemes despite it ridden with several flaws.
The NGO alleged that benefits of schemes like the widow pensions, financial assistance for self help groups were garnered by political activists of various parties instead of reaching the actual beneficiaries.
At the outset, the CJI’s bench said: “This is an election year, that is why you are distributing such benefits without any basis. We are concerned with the situation where such hundreds of crores are being spent without proper identification.”
Sibal denied allegations of favouritism but the bench appeared unconvinced. He then said there was no scientific way to identify the beneficiaries.
This infuriated the bench further, which told him it was the government’s duty to verify and ascertain the needy.
“This is part of your governance. You have to do it. There may be individuals who actually need the benefits. Do it before you distribute,” it said.
Sibal’s claim that the state had publicised its social welfare schemes and invited those who wanted to avail it was disputed by the NGO. Senior counsel Rakesh Khanna told the court that benefits were extended only to those who were close to the ruling party without any proper identification.