MID-DAY MEAL RIGHT TO LIFE: PATNA HIGH COURT

This post is written by Kirti Sethi 

On July 14, the court directed the state government to submit a detailed report regarding the distribution of grains among children. Then a news report highlighted the adversely affected students due to the lockdown, who were facing nutritional deficiencies. 

The Patna High Court on 21 September 2020 took cognizance of a news report which highlighted the unfortunate situation of children of district Bhagalpur. The news report highlighted the difficulty of children who are facing food scarcity due to lockdown, as schools are shut and children who were provided food under midday meal in schools are vulnerably in a situation where they have no food to eat. The Patna High Court held that “Right to food” is a clear implication of Article 21 which talks about “Right to life”.

Due to closure of schools and anganwadi centres children who were provided food under midday meal schemes are facing food scarcity problems. The Hon’ble High Court has directed the state government of Bihar to make sure that no child is engaged in begging or rag picking in order to earn food. The bench headed by Justice S.kumar has passed some guidelines and directions to state government which includes:

  • To resume the midday meal schemes and sarwa shiksha schemes and make sure that the government school students are either getting meals or ration as feasible as well as textbooks and notebooks. 
  • To ensure that the stautory benifits are  disbursed under Food Security Act, in timely manner.
  • To ensure that digital lectures are taking place.
  • To ensure that the role of anganwadi workers and NGO are enhanced to help spread message of importance of education.
  • To ensure that attendance of all students are marked through digital infrastructure.

As food is a basic necessity of life and deprivation of right of food may violate the fundamental right of ‘Right to Life’ given under Article 21. 

The bench took cognizance of this news report to point out most important issues which are to be taken care of for children welfare. 

  •  To ensure that the  State is fulfilling all its statutory and constitutional obligations of providing food and nutritional security to children who have been adversely affected by the closure of schools and Anganwadi centres due to the pandemic. 
  • To ensure that if any issue  arises iwith the closing down of schools, what measures can be adopted to prevent school children from indulging in begging and garbage collection. 

The Hon’ble High Court has noted that ” due to increasing number of covid cases the children are kept away from the schools and anganwadi centres to restrict the spread . As a result the children who are heavily dependent on the scheme have been put to risk.  

The Patna High Court has contended that Children are the wealth of nation. This failure, or delay in acting on the present situation could lead to inveterate long-term consequences on thier health, development, and general well-being of children, while disposing off the Suo Motu plea. 

CONCLUSION 

It is very much true that food is a basic necessity of life and as directed by the court it comes under the Ambit of of article 21 that is right to life. The Court was an important step to be taken towards students nutritional welfare as we all are aware that students who are benefited through the midday meal scheme are those who cannot afford to buyi food or earn their living, so under the governments program they are benefited of food and also education. We all have seen the adverse effects of this lockdown one of these obviously faced by students or children’s who are are poor and cannot afford to fulfill their there nutritional values. The central has made the state government obligatory to ensure that every state it is providing poor children all the basic nutritional values they are entitled of as it is a part of of right to life under constitution. The suo Moto cognizance of Patna High Court is a matter of discussion because it clearly states the reality  of poor children who have started to rag pick or beg  to fill their stomachs.such a situation is created by this lockdown where they are forced by their empty stomach to beg for food or to beg to earn their food. It is very much the states obligation to ensure that no child is is left empty stomach. This this obligation of the state shall be fulfilled so that no one fundamental right that is right to life is violated in any case. 

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