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Patna High Court pulls up Bihar govt. over mid-day meal scheme

Representational Image | A news reported highlighted that the closure of schools due to Covid-19 had led to the non-availability of mid-day meals because of the shutting of schools and Anganwadis.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Patna High Court on Monday took suo motu cognisance of a news report that highlighted the plight of children in Bhagalpur district of Bihar over non-availability of mid-day meals due to shutting of the schools and Anganwadi centres in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic disease and issued notices to the State government and departments of Health & Family Welfare and Education.

Earlier, on Monday, the National Human Rights Commission also took suo motu cognizance of the news report and issued notices to the Centre and Bihar government.

“The disruption and closure of schools across the State will have a negative impact not just on children’s right to education but also, in specific cases, their right to adequate food”, said the Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar.

The proceedings took place through video conference on Monday.

“As per Article 47 of the Constitution, the State has a duty to raise the level of nutrition and standards of living of its people and improve public health. Section 5 of the National Food Security Act 2013 provides for nutritional support to children by way of meals at Aanganwadi centres and schools run by the Government. The constitutional and statutory mandate needs implementation in letter and spirit”, the court further said.

The Bench also said that “the relevant issue that arises is whether the State is fulfilling its statutory and constitutional mandate of providing food and nutritional security to children who have been adversely impacted by the closure of schools and Anganwadi centres due to COVID-19”.

“We wish to clarify that the present proceedings may not be misunderstood as a direction to opening and recommending classes”, said the court.

The court made the State of Bihar, the Department of Health & Family Welfare and Department of Education as respondents in the notice.

“We direct the respondents herein to ensure that no child is pushed into or indulges in any activity of rack picking or beggary, more so on account of lack of food”, the court directed while, appointing Chhaya Kirti, counsel who was present in the virtual court, as amicus curiae.

Vikas Kumar appeared for the State to accept the notice.

The court fixed the next date of hearing on July 8.

Earlier, on Monday the State government issued an order to distribute ration to school children for three months and transfer money to their bank accounts or to to their guardians, in lieu of the food scheme.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) too on Monday had taken suo motu cognisance of news report and issued notices to the Centre and Bihar seeking a detailed reply within four weeks on what it said was a “serious issue”.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 8:31:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/patna-high-court-pulls-up-bihar-govt-over-mid-day-meal-scheme/article32010498.ece

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