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SC alert on school meals

New Delhi, Sept. 3 (PTI): The Supreme Court today put states not implementing the mid-day meal scheme on verbal notice saying it could ask the Centre to stop all grant to them if the scheme was not implemented in government and government-aided primary schools.

A bench of Chief Justice B.N. Kirpal, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice Arijit Passayat requested Attorney-General Soli J. Sorabjee to look into this, saying that a final order would be passed on Monday.

The bench sought opinion of the attorney-general whether in case of those states which plead that they have no money to implement the mid-day meal scheme, Central grant in one field could be diverted for the implementation of this scheme.

However, when some states wanted modification of the last year’s order making it mandatory for them to implement the scheme, the bench observed: “We will prohibit transfer of any fund to those states from the Centre if mid-day meal scheme is not implemented. We are giving you verbal notice. We will just tell the Centre not to transfer any fund to the delinquent states.”

The bench asked counsel for petitioner People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Cecil Gonsalves, to have a meeting with the attorney-general to give common points to the court for passing an appropriate order.

The court also made it clear that it would no longer permit storing of foodgrain with private contractors because Food Corporation of India godowns were full.

It said these excess foodgrain be distributed among the states for “food for work” programmes.

The bench rejected applications of Mizoram, Manipur, West Bengal, Nagaland and Delhi seeking modification in the earlier court order making it mandatory for the states to supply cooked meal in schools to attract students and make “education for all” a reality.

The Delhi government said it was difficult to provide cooked meals to around 10.5 lakh students and so it was providing biscuits to them. Nagaland had said it was ready to provide cash incentives to the students instead of cooked meal.

“The biscuits end up in the grocery shop and the money will be appropriated by the parents. That is why we said the children should get some cooked food,” the bench said.

“If the children had the right to vote, none of the governments would have come forward to say that they do not have funds to implement the mid-day meal scheme,” it added.

“Any state which does not comply with the directions to implement the mid-day meal scheme, there will be no transfer of Central funds. The counsel appearing for the states can inform their chief ministers that is what we are planning to do,” the bench said in dismay.

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