Bombay HC upholds Centre’s decision to divert MPLAD funds to combat Covid-19

The litigation had claimed that as the funds were required by the Members of Parliament (MPs) of each area for uplifting their constituencies, the suspension for two years should be set aside
The litigants’ Rs1-lakh security deposit were forfeited and transferred to the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority.(HT File)
The litigants’ Rs1-lakh security deposit were forfeited and transferred to the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority.(HT File)
Updated on Dec 12, 2020 01:48 AM IST
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ByK A Y Dodhiya

The Bombay high court (HC) on Friday upheld the central government’s decision to divert the funds allotted under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) that had challenged the move.

The PIL had challenged an April 8 circular of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MSPI), which had suspended the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme for 2020-21 and 2021-22.

The litigation had claimed that as the funds were required by the Members of Parliament (MPs) of each area for uplifting their constituencies, the suspension for two years should be set aside. The ministry, however, had justified the decision by stating that as the nation was trying to combat the pandemic, the MPLAD scheme funds were being diverted to the finance ministry for the larger public good, and hence the PIL should be dismissed.

HC concurred with the ministry and held that the petitioner’s contentions were not in public interest, and hence, the litigants’ Rs1-lakh security deposit were forfeited and transferred to the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority.

The division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni, while passing the judgment in the PIL filed by Neelima Vartak through advocate Shekhar Jagtap, held that the suspension ordained by the circular in question did not abrogate any legal right of a citizen that would warrant judicial intervention. The bench further held that though the petitioner had claimed that the suspension of MPLAD funds would adversely affect that citizens as well as MPs, neither had approached the court with such a grievance and hence, the petitioner’s claims did not have any merit.

Justifying the suspension of the funds, the court in its order held, “For achieving another dominant public purpose, the government would indeed be within its power, competence and authority to rescind/suspend a scheme.”

The court further said that as combatting the pandemic took centre stage, the decision of the government was justified.

“In the given situation, the fight against Covid-19 has to take centre-stage over all other developmental works which are sought to be secured by utilising the MPLAD Scheme funds. The decision contained in the impugned circular is, thus, unexceptionable,” it held.

In light of these observations, the court held, “This PIL appears to us to be misconceived because it seeks to impeach justifiable executive action and has no element of public interest in it, far less a genuine public interest. In such view of the matter, we have no hesitation to dismiss the same. It is ordered accordingly.”

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