Written by Shaurya Mahajan
Today, the honorable Supreme Court in the case of Ajmal Ahmed versus Union of India and others directed the Lakshadweep administration to continue the application of the interim order passed by the Kerala High Court which directed the administration to include non-vegetarian food items: meat and chicken, in the midday meals for school children and also to continue the functioning of the dairy farms in the region.
The bench comprising of Justices Indira Banerjee and AS Bopanna passed the order while issuing notice in a Special Leave Petition filed against the September 2021 judgment of the Kerala High Court which dismissed a PIL, challenging the Lakshwadweep administration’s decision to exclude chicken and meat from mid-day meals and also to close down the dairy farms in the region.
Before dismissing the petition, the High Court had in June 2021 passed an interim order to stay the administration’s decisions.
However, on September 17, 2021, the High Court dismissed the writ petition, approving the decisions taken by the administration. Today, the Supreme Court, while considering the SLP filed by Ajmal Ahmed, directed that the interim order passed by the High Court on June 23, 2021, will continue. The Top Court has issued notices of the same to the Union of India and the Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel.
The High Court had accepted the administration’s stand that the menu was altered to suit the kind of food locally available and that the National Food Security Act 2013 does not mandate the supply of non-vegetarian food. The administration asserted that the changed menu was decided on the basis of recommendations of experts and that it caters to the nutritional needs of the children. The HC had also accepted the administration’s explanation that the dairy farms were decided to be closed as they were not financially viable.
In the petition filed before the Supreme Court, the petitioner argued that altering the food menu violates the right to choice of food under Article 21 of the Constitution and that the changes interfere with the traditional food habits of the island inhabitants. It was also contended that inhabitants of Lakshadweep engaged mostly in Government activities to eke out their livelihood. The Administrator’s direction to immediately close down all the dairy farms run by the Department of Animal Husbandry and holding auctions for this regard was contended to bring grave consequences to the people on the islands.
The petitioner was represented by senior Advocate I H Syed , Advocate-on-Record Abid Ali Beeran, Advocates Peeyus Kottam, Sarath S Janardhanan and Aniq Qadri.