Lawyer asks SC to declare food security ordinance illegal

A Delhi lawyer has filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the contentious Food Security Ordinance as being "illegal". The United Progressive Alliance government's ambitious welfare scheme became law after receiving President Pranab Mukherjee's assent on Friday ( See: Govt promulgates food security ordinance).

The scheme provides for subsidised food to nearly 800 million or 67 per cent of the population, and is being viewed as a major vote-getter in the 2014 general elections. It had to be promulgated by ordinance as the Congress-led UPA government does not have enough numbers to pass it in parliament.

Advocate M L Sharma on Friday filed a public interest litigation (PIL) asking the apex court to quash the ordinance. The petition says that an ordinance can be promulgated only in extraordinary circumstances and the current situation certainly didn't warrant the move.

Sharma also contended that the Food Security Bill had already been tabled in Parliament; hence a move to push it through the ordinance route was aimed at gaining political mileage.

The bill was to have been cleared by parliament in February, but opposition protests ensured that didn't happen.

Opposition parties led by the BJP have attacked the government for ramming the measure through by decree, saying there has not been enough discussion of its effect on prices and on farmers who must produce more food.

The populist programme, championed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, will cost a whopping Rs1.25 lakh crore a year.

Critics of the scheme say that the country can ill-afford such a costly subsidy at a time of slowing economic growth and when credit rating agencies are eyeing the country's large deficit.