Karnataka High Court: P. S. Dinesh Kumar, J., disposed of the petitions and upheld the State Government’s power and prerogative to impose conditions while considering the applications for grant of authorization.

The facts of the case are such that the distribution of essential commodities in the State was initially controlled and governed under the provisions of The Essential Commodities Act, 1966 and The  Karnataka Essential Commodities Licensing Order, 1986.   On November 11, 1992, the State Government, in super cession of the Control Order of 1986, introduced the Karnataka Essential Commodities Public Distribution System (Control) Order, 1992 to govern the distribution of essential commodities. On June 10, 2016, the State Government issued a notification giving effect to KEC PDS System (Control) Order 2016. Rule 13 of the Order 2016 in the years 2017, 2020 and 2021 simultaneously.

The resultant effect of Notification dated January 16, 2021 is, in case of death of an authorized dealer before attaining the age of 65 years, the authorization can be transferred to his spouse who is aged less than 65 years or unemployed son or unmarried daughter aged more than 18 years or widowed daughter aged more than 18 years. Such transferees must have passed 10th standard or equivalent qualification as on the date of the death of the authorised dealer. Petitioners have challenged the amendment brought to Rule 13 on May 20, 2017 and also prayed for a declaration that Rule 7 as redundant in view of the Notification dated January 16, 2021. In substance, petitioners’ grievance is with regard to educational qualification of ‘pass in 10th Standard’ and the period of renewal limited to 3 years.

Counsel for petitioner Mr. Sharath S Gowda submitted that that distribution of commodities is an essential and integral part in the daily lives of citizen. Though the authorization is given to one member in the family, he is assisted by other members of the family and therefore the entire family depends on the authorization for their livelihood. Therefore the condition of ‘pass in 10th Standard’ is unsustainable in law. It was also argued that the maximum period of validity of fresh authorization being limited to five years is also arbitrary.

Counsel for respondents Mr. Dhyan Chinnappa submitted that pass in 10th Standard is necessary because the person holding authorization is required to have minimum knowledge in the measurements and Bank transactions. He further submitted that the period of five years is more than sufficient for any family losing its bread winner to revive itself. The State Government has now issued ‘Control Order 2021′ and the same has not been challenged by the petitioners. Therefore, petitioners’ cases will be considered on the basis of the Notification in force as on the date of death of authorization holder.

The Court observed that it is well settled that in the case of compassionate appointments employer is entitled to frame policies and therefore the State Government is entitled to frame policies in the case of commodity distributions also.  As recorded hereinabove, the State Government have throughout maintained the condition of pass in ‘10th Standard’ consistently. There has been change with regard to the maximum period of authorization. Initially it was three years, increased to five years and presently ten years.  Thus there has been consistent improvement in the period of authorization. There is one another additional aspect which the State Government have included in the amendment brought on January 16, 2021 namely that the applicant should have ‘no other source of income’. Thus the applicants who shall be governed by  the Notification dated June 10, 2016, the amended notifications dated May 20, 2017 and March 17, 2020 can be considered under one category, because in all these three Notifications there is condition with regard to source of income. The condition of ‘pass in 10th Standard’ is a reasonable condition.

The Court further observed that a person who deals with commodity distribution is required to have basic knowledge in arithmetic, Banking and liaison with public offices. The other conditions with regard to age are also a matter of policy and the same is just and appropriate. Moreover, condition of ‘pass in 10th Standard’ cannot be found fault with.

The Court stated In respect of the petitioners whose applications fall for consideration in any of these three Notifications, the condition of five years is contrary to the progressive and subsequent view taken by the State Government in 2021 Notification extending it to 10 years. Further, it cannot be lost sight of the fact that this Court has granted orders in large number of writ petitions to consider the cases of petitioners without reference to restriction on age and pass in 10th Standard.

Hence, several applicants similarly situated as the petitioners herein, have taken the benefit of interim orders passed by this Court for consideration of their cases without reference to restriction of age and SSLC qualification.  Therefore, if these writ petitions are dismissed without any observations, it would result in two set of applicants namely the one successful on the strength of several orders in various writ petitions and the other, deprived of consideration of their applications.

The Court thus held it is  desirable for the State Government to consider the cases of  these writ petitioners, without reference to the restriction of  ‘age’ and ‘pass in 10th Standard’ which shall be in parity  with various orders passed by this Court in several writ  petitions. [Manmohankumar VC v. State of Karnataka, WP No. 13559 of 2020, decided on 23-12-2021]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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