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Bombay High Court upholds Centre’s decision to suspend MPLAD scheme due to Covid-19 outbreak

The Bombay High Court on Friday upheld the Union Government’s decision to suspend the MPLAD funds scheme for two years in view of the coronavirus pandemic. The division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni passed this order while hearing a PIL filed by Neelima Sadanand Vartak.

The Court observed, “The fight against Covid-19 has to take centre stage over all other developmental works which are sought to be secured by utilizing the MPLAD Scheme funds. The decision contained in the circular is, thus, unexceptionable.”

The petitioner, who is a legal practitioner, challenged a circular issued by the Joint Secretary (MPLADS) to the Government of India, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, dated April 8, 2020.

This writ petition seeks directions to the Government of India to resume the MPLAD Scheme so that the funds could be used for the purposes intended, which may include protection of citizens from the adverse effect of the pandemic as well as funding programmes and projects to contain the spread of the virus.

The Court said, “Irrespective of whichever party an MP belongs, the suspension has cut across all similarly; yet, none has come forward to say that by reason of the suspension, there has been an injury or wrong prejudicial to the interests of the electorate he represents.”

“We hold that by suspending the MPLAD scheme during FYs 2020-21 and 2021-22, there has been no abrogation of any legal right of a citizen which would warrant judicial intervention,” the bench held.

“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 Court further observed.

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 the nation’s health.

While dismissing the plea, the HC ruled, “In case of a disaster situation like the present caused by the pandemic, the Government of India needs funds to protect and aid the citizenry by offering appropriate facilities.”

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