Govt. admits to not supplying food to school students as per food security law: HC

Court seeks reply on when and how the eligible schoolchildren will be compensated

Court seeks reply on when and how the eligible schoolchildren will be compensated

The State government has “candidly” admitted that it did not supply midday meals or foodgrains between June 1 and October 31 to eligible students studying in government and aided schools who are covered under the midday meal scheme of the National Food Security Act, 2013, the High Court of Karnataka observed on Tuesday.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar made the observations during the hearing of the petitions related to issues cropped up owing to COVID-19 restrictions.

While observing that non-supply of midday meals or foodgrains or providing food security allowance to students as per the NFS Act amounts to denial of the fundamental right guaranteed under the Article 21, the Bench directed the government to elaborate about in what manner and within what period the eligible students covered under the scheme would be compensated.

The State government is bound to implement the NFS Act and the Midday Meal Rules, 2015 despite closure of schools, the Bench observed.

The government, in response to the court’s earlier query, said foodgrains were supplied to students only till May 31 in lieu of midday meal.

The government also submitted the copies of the decisions taken on November 3 of releasing ₹44 crore for purchase of foodgrains for supplying to students for June to October period.

However, the government made it clear that foodgrains have been supplied to the eligible children in lieu of the meals till October, including during the lockdown period.

Meanwhile, the Bench also directed the Secretary, Department of Primary and Secondary Education, to explain how the provisions of the Midday Meal Rules, 2015, framed under the NFS Act, would be implemented in view of COVID-19 situation owing to which schools have remained closed.

The Bench also noted that as per Section 5 of the NFS Act, the government would have to provide appropriate free meals to children aged between six months and six years through the local anganwadi, and one free midday meal to children up to Class VIII every day, except on school holidays, in all schools that were run by the government, local bodies, and government-aided schools.

Meanwhile, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties contended that the State government, as per the NFS Act, would have to pay food security allowance to each eligible person in case of non-supply of the entitled quantities of foodgrains or meals.

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