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SC judge recuses himself from hearing Swaraj Abhiyan's plea for allocation of funds for MGNREGA

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New Delhi: Supreme Court judge justice P S Narasimha on Friday recused himself from hearing a plea filed by a political party seeking a direction to the Centre to ensure that states have adequate funds to implement the rural employment guarantee scheme, MGNREGA.

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The matter came for hearing before a bench comprising Justices P S Narasimha and Aravind Kumar.

As the case came on board, Justice Narasimha said he has appeared in the matter as a lawyer and the matter will have to be placed before the Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud for constitution of a fresh bench.

Justice Narasimha was elevated to the Supreme Court from bar on the recommendation of the collegium.

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Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for the petitioner party.

Swaraj Abhiyan, in its fresh plea, submitted that there is currently a grave crisis being faced by crores of workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGA) in the country, with their pending wages piling up along with negative balances in most of the states.

As of November 26, 2021, state governments are facing a shortage of Rs 9,682 crore and 100 per cent of the allocated funds for the year have been exhausted before the conclusion of the year, it said.

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This is despite this excuse of shortage of funds being a gross violation of the law, it said and referred to the apex court judgement on MGNREGA wage payments.

The plea said directions to the Centre be issued to put in place a mechanism to ensure that states have adequate funds to implement the programme for a subsequent month.

The month when the demand was highest in the previous year should be used as the base month for which minimum funds must be provided to the State Government in advance, the plea said.

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It also sought issuance of direction to the Centre and states to comply with the instruction of May 31, 2013 issued by Ministry of Rural Development and ensure that workers are able to register their demand for work through technologies and get dated acknowledgement receipts for the same.

A direction be also issued to the Centre and states to comply with the provisions in the Annual Master Circular and ensure automatic payment of unemployment allowance to workers who have not been provided work within 15 days of them demanding it.

The plea has also sought a direction to the Centre to ensure that all pending wage, material, and administrative payments pending as of today are cleared within the next 30 days.

It has also sought a direction to the authorities to ensure payment of compensation for the delay in payment of wages, as prescribed in the MGNREGA along with clearing all pending wage payments due.

Swaraj Abhiyan, then an NGO, had filed a PIL in the apex court in 2015 seeking various reliefs for rural poor and farmers and later came up with an interim application in that plea.

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