The fight against Covid-19 has to take centre stage over all other developmental works, said the Bombay High Court on Friday while upholding the Union government's decision to suspend the MPLAD funds scheme for two years, in view of the pandemic. The HC even imposed a cost of Rs one lakh on the woman who challenged the decision.
The Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) is a scheme wherein funds are allotted to parliamentarians to carry out development work in their constituency.
Notably, the Union Government had, in March this year, suspended the scheme for two years and had notified that it would use the funds for the Covid crisis.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni was petitioned by a woman challenging the decision. The judges, however, noted that neither any MP nor any citizen had raised doubts over the decision.
"Despite the deleterious effects, the suspension of the scheme could have on the prospects of an MP to be elected in the future, not a single parliamentarian - be it of the party in power or in the opposition - has questioned such suspension saying that there has been an injury or wrong prejudicial to the interests of the electorate s/he represents," Chief Justice Datta said.
"Next in line of being affected is the electorate and not a single citizen has come up with any grievance that the scheme should not be utilised to combat Covid-19," the judges noted.
The judges further held that no citizen could claim a right to challenge Union's decision, saying that in case of a disaster situation like the pandemic, the Government needs funds to protect and aid the citizenry by offering appropriate facilities.
"In such a situation, we are inclined to the view that no citizen has a legal right to claim that benefits flowing from a particular scheme - which may have been conceived, brought into existence to promote the directive principles as envisaged in the Constitution - has to be continued for all times to come," the CJ held, adding, "there has been no abrogation of any legal right of a citizen which would warrant judicial intervention."
The bench further held that the Union has consciously taken the decision to suspend the scheme to provide measures for the nation to combat COVID-19 and to ensure that all citizens, to the extent possible, receive proper health and medicare during the time the pandemic poses a risk to thenation’s health, the judges said.
"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. The decision is thus, unexceptionable," the judges said while dismissing the PIL.