Children to Be Provided With Food and Nourishment According to National Food Security Act, 2013: Madras High Court

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A Bench led by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy instructed the State to take immediate notice of the matter and bring up recommendations to facilitate the implementation of such an initiative in aid of school children.

Facts

The Petitioner has brought an important aspect related to aiding school children. Especially, during the period of the pandemic, it has led to the complete closure of schools for the last fifteen months. The Petitioner referring to the National Food Security Act, 2013 and the nutritional content of the daily meals for children stated that since schools remain closed and the midday meals cannot be provided, the State needs to ensure that children in the State get the food and nutritional content as they are obligated and should be provided according to the specified statute. 

Arguments

The core of the petition is that even though children may not be attending schools where midday meals were provided, the State has to be proactive and must ensure that door-to-door delivery of meals to children all over the State is provided. There might be logistic and practical difficulties in putting it to motion, but there is no doubt that immediate action need be taken by the State to ensure that the children are well-fed and nourished, especially since many families have lost jobs or have comparatively fewer resources available due to the pandemic situation and business of many may not being functional normally. It may be easier for the State, through the Corporations or the Municipalities, to organize adequate food and nourishment for children in the urban or semi-urban areas, the difficulties may come up in the rural areas. The Panchayat system may be used by the State and NGOs may be roped in for the purpose of reaching food and nourishment to children in the rural areas, particularly since family incomes in the rural areas may have suffered more during the pandemic.

Court’s observations

The Court observed that the matter is of great concern and needs immediate attention of the State. In this regard, notices must be issued immediately. A copy of the petition should reach the office of the learned Advocate-General. It would serve the children well if the State has a roadmap ready so that the lack of adequate food and nourishment that children have suffered over the last 15 months or so, particularly among the more vulnerable sections, may be remedied without delay.

Court’s decision

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The court has decided to be heard again on 7th July so that the State government can look into the matter and prepare a road map to ensure that the children are made available to their necessities for their nourishment. 

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