In a setback to the Tamil Nadu government, the Madras High Court on Wednesday granted a stay on a scheme under which Rs 1,000 cash was to be distributed as Pongal gift to all ration card holders in the state.
The court also restrained the state government from giving away the money to people who do not belong to below poverty line category.
A division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and P Rajamanickam passed the interim order on a petition by activist J Daniel Jesudass, challenging the government decision to provide the gift to all the ration card holders irrespective of their financial status.
"How can you give Rs 1,000 to all ration card holders and call it a policy decision?" the bench asked while observing that the money belonged to the government and not the ruling party.
"One can understand if Pongal gifts are given to people below poverty line, and it's not wrong... But what's the intention behind giving away Rs 1,000 to all ration card holders? Already reeling under big financial burden, it will only increase the burden on the state government," it noted.
The court wondered why judges of the High Court and the Advocate General of Tamil Nadu would require Rs 1,000 Pongal money from the government.
"Why are you splurging government money in the name of Pongal? If political parties give away their money, we will not raise these questions," it said.
Seeking to know if the government was distributing the money even before completing cyclone ''Gaja'' relief measures, the judges suggested that it could do a lot using this money, including improvement of infrastructure.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami had launched the scheme on January 5 by giving away Rs 1,000 each to 10 beneficiaries at a function.
The scheme was being implemented at a cost of Rs 258 crore and gift hampers were also to be made available in ration shops ahead of the Pongal festival, being celebrated on January 15.