Supreme Court upholds Lakshadweep admin decision to remove meat from mid-day meals in schools, close dairy farms

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the decision of the Lakshadweep administration to close down dairy farms and omit meat from the menu of mid-day meals in schools on the islands. [Ajmal Ahmed R vs Union of India and ors]

A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi stated that courts of law cannot interfere with such policy or administrative decisions.

The Court cannot decide on what food should be eaten by children, the bench added.

No legal breach has been pointed out in the policy decisions. It is not the Court’s domain as to what food should be eaten by children of a particular region. There is no scope of interference by courts of law on that count, which would have to accept administrative decisions in that regard unless some outstanding arbitrariness is pointed out … Policy decision would not come in scope of judicial review,” the Supreme Court order stated.

During the course of the hearing today, Justice Bose questioned if there was any vested right to have non-vegetarian food on the mid-day meal menu.

“Where is the vested legal right of having only this (non-vegetarian) food? We are a court of law, not doing value judgments of the government’s decision. You have to appreciate the limits of our role … The Union Territory is not asking you to change your food habits, they are changing what they are serving you in schools in mid-day meals. Under the Food Security Act, there may be a vested right for mid-day meals, but not the menu, he observed.

The lawyer representing the appellant who had challenged the administration’s decision submitted that the food in mid-day meals should be culturally accepted and liked by the kids, who are mostly tribals.

Dry fruits are not (liked)?”, Justice Trivedi replied, in turn.

Justice Bose weighed in by opining that this was not an issue where the courts could interfere.

We cannot question why this law is brought or this policy is changed. If it affects fundamental rights, then possibly courts can interfere … We do not have the expertise to find out whether other food is being liked or not. In the jallikatu case, the Constitution Bench held it is for the legislature to find out what is culture.”

The Supreme Court proceeded to dismiss the appeal filed on the matter by a resident of Kavaratti island, advocate Ajmal Ahmed.

Ahmed had challenged a September 2021 judgment from the Kerala High Court that had rejected a petition against the decision of the Lakshadweep administration to omit meat from the mid-day meal menu and close dairy farms on the islands.

Ahmed contended that the move infringed upon the ethnic culture, heritage, food habits, and the rights of the residents under Articles 19 and 300A of the Constitution of India.

The plea pointed out that Lakshadweep has been providing midday meals since the 1950s and serving cooked meat and other foods to school-going children.

The plea added that by closing down dairy farms, the residents of the islands would be forced to purchase milk products that are produced by private companies from other States such as Gujarat.

The Lakshadweep administration had earlier informed the Supreme Court that its decision was taken since regular islanders already consume meat from their houses, but not fruits and dry fruits.

Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj appeared for the Lakshadweep administration before the Supreme Court. Senior Advocate IH Syed appeared for the appellant, advocate Ajmal Ahmed.

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