New Delhi, Jan 29: The Supreme Court has refused to give its nod to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's multi-crore welfare schemes for the poor, saying it first needs to lay down norms to identify beneficiaries of the cash disbursed from public funds.
A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said, "We will not allow this to go on. You have to lay down norms to identify who is the needy among the poor to be given cash disbursement from public funds under various schemes."
"Show that scheme to the HC and get its approval. Till that is done, you should not disburse any amount under any welfare scheme. This is an election year. That is why you are proceeding to disburse funds in such a manner," the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi, said.
The apex court, which was hearing a PIL filed by NGO 'Assam Public Works', issued notice to the Assam government and its departments dealing with Panchayat and Rural Development and Agriculture and asked them to file their response in six weeks.
"Elections are due in the state and what is happening? Hundreds of crores of rupees are being disbursed through welfare schemes without there being some basic norms to identify the needy. How do you choose who needs the most from among the lakhs of poor in Assam," the apex court asked.
It took strong exception to disbursing of money to people under financial assistance schemes for homeless, widows, farmers, old-age pension, artisans, women's self-help groups, petty traders and flood affected people.
The petition contended that the government had not even attempted to make the eight schemes known to the needy through wide publicity and there was no transparency in selection of beneficiaries. Pulling up the government, the bench said, "You think the poorest of the poor would come to HC or the SC to complain? You have to devise some method to identify the poorest among the poor."
"When minister in charge of a district and the MLA along with persons nominated by them are members of the committee, there is a general assumption about which kind of persons will get the benefit," it said.