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4th April 2024 (11 Topics)

Disaster Relief Funds & Delay

Context

The Tamil Nadu government has moved the Supreme Court against the Centre for allegedly not releasing relief funds for damages caused by the recent floods and cyclone Maichung. The inaction on the part of the Centre is ex-facie illegal, arbitrary and violative of fundamental rights guaranteed to its citizens under Article 14 and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

1: Dimension-Centre's Constitutional Responsibilities in Disaster Times

  • The constitutional framework governing Centre-State relations in disaster management is not explicitly outlined in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Disaster management does not fall under any of the three lists – Union, State, or Concurrent.
  • Since disaster management is not mentioned in any of the lists, it falls under the residuary powers of the Union government as per Article 248 of the Constitution.
  • The Disaster Management Act, 2005 was enacted by the Union government by tracing its legislative competence to the Concurrent List entry on “Social security and social insurance; employment and unemployment.”
    • The primary responsibility for disaster management rests with the states.
    • The Centre plays a supportive role by providing financial assistance, technical expertise, and coordination between multiple states during disasters, as mandated by the Act
  • NDMA: The Act established the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) as the apex body for disaster management in India, with the Prime Minister as its chairperson.
  • SDMA: At the state level, the Act mandated the creation of State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs), headed by the Chief Ministers.

2: Dimension- Issues arising out of debate

  • Central vs. State Responsibilities in DM: The case highlights the debate regarding the division of responsibilities between the Central and State governments in managing natural disasters.
  • Financial Assistance and Relief Funds: It raises questions about the adequacy and timeliness of financial assistance provided to states affected by natural calamities. This issue reflects on the effectiveness of disaster management policies and procedures in the country.
  • Principles of distributive justice: The allegation of differential treatment and class discrimination in the release of funds underscores the importance of equity and fairness in resource allocation during times of crisis.
  • Constitutional and Legal Remedies: Tamil Nadu’s decision to approach SC highlights the role of constitutional and legal mechanisms in resolving disputes between the Centre and the states.
  • Impact on development and public welfare: Delayed relief efforts hamper state's development and affect public welfare.

Fact Box: Constitutional Articles involved in the dispute

  • Article 131 of the Indian Constitution grants the Supreme Court original jurisdiction in disputes between the Government of India and one or more states, or between states.
  • Tamil Nadu’s plea against the Central Government falls under the purview of Article 131, as it involves a dispute between the state and the Union regarding the release of relief funds.
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