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Problem of Poverty Can Be Addressed Through Law as Its Solution to Achieve Development: Madhya Pradesh HC

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The Madhya Pradesh High Court issued guidelines pertaining to the effective implementation of the NALSA Scheme, 2015 and issued directions for completion of enquiry relating to a complaint filed regarding the construction of toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission.

Facts of the Matter

The petitioner Ramu Chaudhary, registered a complaint on the Chief Minister Helpline Portal regarding the Sarpanch, Secretary and other officers of the Gram Panchayat, pertaining to embezzlement of public fund in the name of construction of toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission, but neither toilet have been constructed nor has any amount for construction been received by the beneficiaries. According to the petitioner despite registering a complaint, no action was taken. Aggrieved, the petitioner filed a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

Arguments before the Court

The Counsel appearing for the State submitted that immediately after receiving the complaint from the petitioner, a committee was constituted to look into the complaint. The show-cause notice that was issued to the then Panchayat Secretary was also submitted. According to the respondents the enquiry was under process. The Counsel assured the Court that “due enquiry would be conducted and if any illegality or irregularity is found then same shall be taken care of earnestly.”

Madhya Pradesh High Court’s Observations

The Bench constituted by Justices Sheel Nagu and Anand Pathak observed that cleanliness and public hygiene is important especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Hence,

it is the solemn duty of the District and Local Administration as well as local self-government to look into the effective implementation of NALSA Scheme, 2015.” The Court stated that the NALSA Scheme, 2015 is built on the foundation that “poverty is a multidimensional experience and is not limited to the issues of income.” The Court also observed that “the State and District Level legal Services are expected to be cognizant of the myriad and unique ways the vulnerable and marginalized groups experience poverty.”

Court’s Decision

After perusal of the NALSA Scheme and to address the exigencies faced by people, the Court issued guidelines:-

(1) If any complaint is received regarding inaction, inappropriate execution, corruption or any matter related thereto which comes under the purview of Legal Services authority act, 1987 and NALSA Scheme, 2015, the District Legal Service Authority (DALSA) shall proactively take care of the situation by proceeding as per Clause 9, 10 and 11 of the Scheme of 2015;

(2) State Authority/District Authority may file appropriate legal proceedings as per Clause 10 (3) of Scheme of 2015 by way of complaint before the Office of Lokayukta as per relevant provisions or may file Private Complaint against the erring persons or may file a petition if the subject matter requires so by way of a Public Interest Litigation under Article 226 of the Constitution of India;

(3) State Authority is requested to contemplate for framing of suitable regulations as per the provisions of Act of 1987, especially under Section 29-A for effective implementation of different schemes of Government of India/State Government fall under NALSA (Effective Implementation of Poverty Alleviation Schemes) Scheme, 2015. A further request is made to contemplate about the preparation of a Software/Mobile Application (Mobile App.) for keeping a tab over the complaints received and their outcome; and

(4) District Authority and its Office Bearers are expected to regularly organize awareness/training programmes for Panel Lawyers/Para-legal Volunteers in a constructive and proactive manner to sensitize them with the notion that they have to act as Healers of the Society, looking to the great responsibilities bestowed upon them. Secretary, SALSA shall coordinate and guide all such awareness/training programmes.”

The Court disposed of the matter and directed the respondents to look into the matter and complete the enquiry.

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