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Delhi High Court’s Ruling on CIC’s Jurisdiction Over MPLADS Funds

Context:

Recently, the Delhi High Court has ruled that the Central Information Commission (CIC) has no jurisdiction to comment on the utilisation of funds under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS).

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Background of the Court’s Ruling
  2. MPLAD Scheme

Background of the Court’s Ruling

  • 2018 CIC Order: The Central Information Commission (CIC) raised concerns about Members of Parliament (MPs) strategically saving their MPLADS funds until the final year of their term. The CIC suspected this tactic was used to gain an unfair advantage during elections.
  • MoSPI Suggestion: The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) was advised by the CIC to prevent this “abuse” by implementing guidelines to ensure the funds were distributed equally over each year of the five-year term.
  • Legal Challenge: The MoSPI filed a legal challenge in the Delhi High Court against the CIC’s ruling related to a Right to Information (RTI) application.
Court’s Ruling
  • No Jurisdiction: The Delhi High Court ruled that the CIC does not have jurisdiction to comment on the utilization of funds by MPs under the MPLADS.
  • RTI Act Scope: The court noted that the RTI Act is limited to providing access to information under the control of public authorities.
  • Section 18 of RTI Act: According to Section 18 of the RTI Act, the CIC can only deal with issues related to the information sought under the RTI Act or any issue leading to the dissipation of such information.
  • Publication of Details: The Court upheld the CIC’s instruction for public authorities to publish details of the funds, MP-wise, Constituency-wise, and work-wise under the RTI Act.

MPLAD Scheme:

MPLADS is an ongoing Central Sector Scheme which was launched in 1993-94.  The Scheme enables the Members of Parliament to recommend works for creation of durable community assets based on locally felt needs to be taken up in their constituencies in the area of national priorities namely drinking water, education, public health, sanitation, roads etc.

Nodal Ministry:

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has been responsible for the policy formulation, release of funds and prescribing monitoring mechanism for implementation of the Scheme.

Features

  • The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.
  • MPs are to recommend every year, works costing at least 15 per cent of the MPLADS entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 per cent for areas inhabited by S.T. population.
  • In order to encourage trusts and societies for the betterment of tribal people, a ceiling of Rs. 75 lakh is stipulated for building assets by trusts and societies subject to conditions prescribed in the scheme guidelines.
  • Lok Sabha Members can recommend works within their Constituencies and Elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the State of Election (with select exceptions).
  • Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.
  • All works to meet locally felt infrastructure and development needs, with an emphasis on creation of durable assets in the constituency are permissible under MPLADS as prescribed in the scheme guidelines.
  • Expenditure on specified items of non durable nature are also permitted as listed in the guidelines.
Release of Funds:
  • Funds are released in the form of grants in-aid directly to the district authorities.
  • The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsable.
  • The liability of funds not released in a particular year is carried forward to the subsequent years, subject to eligibility.
Execution of works:
  • The MPs have a recommendatory role under the scheme. They recommend their choice of works to the concerned district authorities who implement these works by following the established procedures of the concerned state government.
  • The district authority is empowered to examine the eligibility of works sanction funds and select the implementing agencies, prioritise works, supervise overall execution, and monitor the scheme at the ground level.

-Source: Indian Express


June 2024
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