The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the Union Finance Ministry to treat as representation a petition seeking prohibition of the use of active Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) accounts as a sole criterion for identification of poor persons for direct bank transfer schemes, including for cash transfers under the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Yojana.
The petitioner emphasized that an active Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana account is a prerequisite for availing benefits of this ex-gratia amount announced by the Union Government, but this is exclusionary as crores of poor women do not possess the account.
He sought a direction from the court to amend the eligibility criterion for opening of the PMJDY accounts and include persons who already have other type of accounts so as to enable them to avail benefits of welfare schemes.
Counsel for the petitioner submitted that if a woman does not have the Jan Dhan account, but is economically backwards, the benefit of PMJDY should be extended to her. “To that extent, the PMJDY requires amendment.”
Alluding to data, he said that only 20.51 crore poor women own PMJDY accounts as of April 8, 2020 but in reality, there are over 32.6 crore women living below the poverty line.
Hence, more than 37 per cent poor women are excluded from the direct bank transfer scheme if PMJDY accounts are kept as the sole identifying factor for providing welfare schemes.
“It is not in dispute that despite a comprehensive and large-scale dedicated campaign by the Union Government, a large chunk of population does not have the PMJDY accounts. These persons could not get the PMJDY account,” the plea, filed through advocates Mayank Aggarwal and Pradeep Aggarwal stated.
The exclusion of the class of poor women not having a PMJDY account from the scheme only on the basis of not having an account is unconstitutional, the petitioner emphasized. “The classification is bad in law because it fails the test for permissible classification.”
After hearing the contentions of the petitioner, Chief Justice D.N. Patel said, “We direct respondent number 1 (Finance Ministry) or other such authorised authority to treat this petition as representation and decide the grievances in accordance with law, rules, regulation, government policy.”