Published on: August 14, 2022 at 19:42 IST
While submitting its reply, the Lakshadweep administrator informed the Supreme Court bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and AS Bopanna that it had decided to omit meat from the menu of mid-day meals in schools on the Lakshadweep islands and include fruits and dry fruits in its place, since regular islanders consume meat from their houses but not fruits and dry fruits.
The Case: Ajmal Ahmed R v. Union of India
An appeal was made by a person residing in Kavaratti to the Supreme Court against the Kerala High Court judgement. The high court had dismissed a plea that challenged the Lakshadweep administration’s decision to include fruits and nuts in midday meals. The decision was made by excluding meat from the meals. The apex court had sought the centre’s response in the matter. The UT administration had closed dairy farms and omitted meat from the menu of midday meals in schools on the island.
The petitioner had argued that the UT has been providing midday meals since the 1950’s in the form of cooked meat and other foods to school-going children from pre-primary to elementary levels. Since 2009, the same has been extended to the 12th grade.
The new menu excluded meat, which is a violation of the right to food guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
While responding, the Union Territory’s administrator, Praful Khoda Patel, stated in his counter-affidavit that mid-day meals in schools are an addition or substitute to the food that is provided to students at their home. The difficulty of procuring meat products during the monsoons was also mentioned. whereas fish, fruits, and nuts are available easily. The menu was also altered due to the paucity of adequate storage facilities.
“In Lakshadweep, meat and chicken are normally a part of regular meals in all homes. On the other hand, consumption of fruits and dry fruits among islanders is very low. Thus, omitting meat and chicken from the menu of the mid-day meal scheme and including fruits and dry fruits is perfectly in tune with the objective of the mid-day meal scheme. “
The Lakshadweep administration had closed down dairy farms due to a loss of around Rs.96 lakh to the public exchequer. The islands have a population of 20,000, whereas the farms meet the demand of only 300 to 400 people.
The affidavit quoted,
“The varied meals will provide balanced nutrition to children for growth and development.”
“The government is well within its rights to disengage from a commercial activity which is causing a huge loss to the public exchequer.”
Consequently, the bench thus revived the High Court’s interim order that granted interim relief to the petitioner and ordered that “food, including meat, chicken, fish, and eggs, and other items, prepared and served to the school-going children of Lakshadweep, as done in the past, should be continued until further orders.”