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SC restrains State Govt move

By Spl Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Jan 29 - The Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the Assam Government from disbursing financial benefits under the Chief Minister�s Rs 500-crore welfare schemes in the wake of allegations of large-scale corruption and favouritism.

The Bench, headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur, was critical of the State Government for launching the schemes close to the Assembly elections. None of the programmes shall be implemented until further orders, the Bench told the senior counsel Kapil Sibal, who represented Assam.

The Court asked the State Government 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 crore of rupees are being spent from public money through administrative orders,� the Bench told the senior counsel.

�It appears that the schemes were launched for electoral gimmick to suit vested interests in the State,� the Bench commented while hearing Assam Public Works (APW) Special Leave Petition (SLP) against the Gauhati High Court order that declined to stop the Assam Government from implementing its social welfare schemes despite being ridden with several flaws.

The APW 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.

�This is an election year and that is why you are distributing such benefits without any basis. We are concerned with the situation where hundreds of crore of rupees are being spent without proper identification,� the Bench remarked.

Sibal denied allegations of favouritism, but the Bench appeared unconvinced. He then said there was no scientific way to identify the beneficiaries.

�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.

APW 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.

The APW, in its SLP, has called for an ad-interim order restraining the Assam Government from distributing the benefits pursuant to the schemes for the year 2015-16 without formulating the guidelines, till the disposal of the present petition.

The petitioner alleged that State Government has introduced several Chief Minister Special Schemes for providing financial assistance to women self-help groups, artisans, petty traders, poor farmers, homeless people, widows, old-age pension, erosion-effected people among others for their uplift and benefit.

For implementation of the schemes, the Government has prescribed for constitution of LAC Level Beneficiary Selection Committees and District Level Selection Committees with political and non-political members. Accordingly, the committees have been constituted as prescribed and they have prepared lists of beneficiaries in the LAC level, which are yet to be finally approved by the Government.

While introducing the said schemes, the Government has not laid down adequate guidelines, criteria, parameters and modalities for implementation and selection of beneficiaries against each scheme. As a result, the selection committees have prepared lists of beneficiaries as per their whims and fancies keeping their own vested and political interest in the fore, thereby facilitating undeserving persons who are affiliated to such political parties, to enjoy the benefits, leaving the actual poor and downtrodden ones.

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