Supreme Court asks Centre to respond to Karnataka Govt's petition seeking release of Rs 18,171 crore from Centre for drought management : The Tribune India

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Supreme Court asks Centre to respond to Karnataka Govt's petition seeking release of Rs 18,171 crore from Centre for drought management

Attorney General R Venkataramani and Solicitor General told the Bench that they would get instructions from Central Government on the issue

Supreme Court asks Centre to respond to Karnataka Govt's petition seeking release of Rs 18,171 crore from Centre for drought management

A Bench led by Justice BR Gavai, however, refrained from issuing a formal notice to the Centre after the Solicitor General questioned the timing of the petition. File photo



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, April 8

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to respond to the Karnataka Government’s petition seeking a direction to the Central Government to release more than Rs 18,171 crore to the state for drought management.

A Bench led by Justice BR Gavai, however, refrained from issuing a formal notice to the Centre after the Solicitor General questioned the timing of the petition.

Attorney General R Venkataramani and the Solicitor General told the Bench that they would get instructions from the Central Government on the issue.

“Instead of filing 32 they would have talked to us ... We know the timing of these petitions. Lordships may not issue notice, it also becomes a news,” the Solicitor General told the Bench which also included Justice Sandeep Mehta.

Mehta’s comments came after senior counsel Kapil Sibal submitted on behalf of the Karnataka Government that under law, the Central Government was required to take a final decision on the assistance to the state from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) within a month of the receipt of the Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT).

However, that period was over in December, 2023, Sibal said, adding the Election Commission should also be made a party to these proceedings.

“Let there not be a contest between Union and State,” said the Bench which pointed out that various state governments were now approaching the top court.

The Bench posted the matter for hearing after two weeks as Mehta said, “I don't wish to say why ... it is a growing tendency which needs to be checked.”

Stating that the state was reeling under “severe drought”, affecting the lives of its people, the Karnataka Government had last month moved the top court seeking release Rs 18,171.44 crore from the NDRF to the state for drought management. It has urged the top court to direct the Centre to give it financial assistance from the NDRF.

For the Kharif 2023 season (June-September), a total of 223 out of 236 taluks were declared as drought-affected -- 196 taluks severely affected and the remaining 27 moderately affected, the Karnataka Government said.

“Cumulatively for Kharif 2023 season, the agriculture and horticulture crop loss have been reported in more than 48 lakh hectares with the estimated loss (cost of cultivation) of Rs 35,162 crore,” the state government submitted.

“In terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the Union of India is under obligation to render financial assistance to the state governments,” it said.

The Karnataka Government urged the top court to declare that the Centre's action in not releasing the financial assistance for drought arrangement as per the NDRF was “ex-facie violative” of the fundamental rights of the people of the state guaranteed under Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

“Further, the impugned action of the Central Government is violative of statutory scheme of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the manual for drought management and the guidelines on constitution and administration of the State Disaster Response Fund and National Disaster Response Fund,” it submitted.

Under the manual for drought management, the Centre was required to take a final decision on the assistance to the state from the NDRF within a month of the receipt of the inter-ministerial central team (IMCT), it said.

“Despite the IMCT report, which visited various drought affected districts from October 4 to 9, 2023 and made a comprehensive assessment of drought situation in the state and consideration of the said report by the sub-committee of the National Executive Committee constituted under section 9 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, Centre has not taken a final decision on the assistance to the state from the NDRF even after a lapse of almost six months from the date of the said report,” the petition submitted.

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