New Delhi/Kochi, March 21: A decision of the Kerala government to distribute free rice to 20 lakh families living below poverty line from April one has been questioned by the Election Commission citing model code of conduct.
The Chief Electoral Officer of Kerala E K Majhi has now referred the matter to a committee headed by the state Chief Secretary P K Mohanty to examine whether the move is violative of the model code of conduct which came into force on March 4 when polls to five states were announced.
The decision to provide 25 kg of rice to BPL families was part of the Budget speech of Chief Minister Oomen Chandy.
The state Cabinet had last month approved the move to distribute rice from April one. Though the decision was taken before the model code came into force, it is being implemented during the election period.
Office of the Kerala CEO said the state government has not been asked to defer the implementation till elections are over but the issue has only been referred to the committee headed by the Chief Secretary for further consideration.
Kerala will go for a single-phase poll on May 16. State Food Minister Anoop Jacob told said that if the implementation is delayed, the state will approach the Election Commission as the "policy decision" was taken "much before" the model code came into force.
Citing a past precedent, he said in 2011, the Kerala High Court had set aside the Chief Electoral Officer's order restraining the state government from implementing its decision to extend the scheme to distribute rice at Rs 2 a kg to families of the Above Poverty Line (APL) category subject to certain conditions.