The Supreme Court indicated on Tuesday that it might appoint a commissioner to monitor the government’s drought-relief work in the affected districts and submit a report to the court.
The concern expressed by a bench of justice MB Lokur and justice NV Ramana over the acute rural crisis in the country came as the Centre claimed it had no role in declaring drought in a state. Additional solicitor general PS Narasimha told the bench the states had democratically elected governments and it was not within the Centre’s domain to determine whether an area suffered from a crisis. But the law officer opposed the court’s suggestion to nominate a commissioner. He said it should be done if the government was unable to carry out court orders. “We have many authorities working on it,” he said.
But the court felt a commissioner, overseeing the implementation of government schemes, would place the correct picture before it. “If the government releases funds two or three months later, the court commissioner will tell us about it. A person affected in Tamil Nadu will not come here to complain if he hasn’t received the benefits,” the bench said. It told the advocate court commissioners had been appointed in the past.
The court is hearing a PIL filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan that wants the court to direct states to implement schemes meant for drought-hit regions. The petitioner has claimed some states have not declared a drought despite worsening rural conditions.
“When we do something, you (government) complain we are overreaching. If we don’t then people complain we are not acting,” the bench lamented.
The court asked Narasimha to produce data on how many districts in affected states declared a drought. It wanted to know when the declaration was made and the annual budget of the national drought relief fund and state drought relief fund. It advised the Centre to direct states not to insist on ration cards to supply benefits in drought-prone districts.