High Court modifies order on Pongal gifts

Vastavam web: Days after restraining the Tamil Nadu government from distributing Rs 1,000 as a gift for Pongal to non-BPL ration card holders, the Madras High Court Friday modified its order allowing the state to extend it to ‘sugar card’ holders, a group which does not belong to the BPL category. “Since a responsible officer has submitted through a sworn affidavit that those with non-priority household only for sugar (NPHH-S) cards also fall under the below poverty line category, we are permitting the government to distribute the cash gift to balance 5,98,772 people falling under this category,” a division bench said.

The bench of justices M Sathyanarayanan and P Rajamanickam passed the order while allowing a modification application moved by the Tamil Nadu government. The numbers of such families cannot be arrived at this juncture as the economic indices are not available and the government is issuing the family cards on the basis of residential proof only, he had said. Out of 10,11,330 people, 4,12,558 NPHH-S card holders received the gift on Thursday.

“The balance card holders under this category, most of whom are also from below poverty line category, are affected and highly disappointed by non-receipt of the benefit,” Narayan said. On December 9, the bench passed an interim order preventing the state from distributing the cash gift to ‘non-priority household only for sugar’ (NPHH-S) and ‘no commodity’ (NC) category card holders.

The court had passed the interim order on a petition by activist J Daniel Jesudass challenging the government’s decision to provide the gift to all ration card holders irrespective of their financial status. “How can you give Rs 1,000 to all ration card holders and call it policy decision?” the bench had asked while observing that the money belonged to the government and not the ruling party. “One can understand if Pongal gifts are given to people below poverty line, and it’s not wrong.