14 Sep 2023 7:10 AM GMT
The Kerala government today assured the High Court that arrears of payments to government and aided schools under its 'Noon-Meal Scheme' will be cleared soon.Government pleader informed the High Court that the issues between the Centre and the State with respect to the funds have been resolved and hence, payments will be made soon.Single Judge Bench of Justice T.R. Ravi in its order...
The Kerala government today assured the High Court that arrears of payments to government and aided schools under its 'Noon-Meal Scheme' will be cleared soon.
Government pleader informed the High Court that the issues between the Centre and the State with respect to the funds have been resolved and hence, payments will be made soon.
Single Judge Bench of Justice T.R. Ravi in its order today recorded,
"The GP has placed before me an Order dated 13.09.2023 issued by the Govt wherein it is stated that a sum of Rs. 81,57,73,500/- being the 50% share of the State in the total amount of 1631514000/-, has been deposited into the account of the Director of General Education. It is further stated by the GP on instruction that the entire amounts payable will be paid off since the issues between the State and the Centre has almost been resolved. The above submission is recorded."
The development comes in a plea filed by the Kerala Pradesh School Teachers' Association and the Headmasters of certain government and aided schools in the State alleging untimely and inadequate disbursal of funds under the Noon-Meal scheme.
The Scheme was introduced by the Government for students upto Grade VIII in Government and Aided Schools in the State.
The Scheme runs on the funds allocated by the Centre and the State. The Centre pays its contribution to the State in two instalments every year. As per news reports, the State alleged that the Centre had delayed its disbursal for the first instalment, as a result of which the funds for the Scheme had depleted.
"You (the Government) made this a social responsibility. So now that you have made it so, you should carry on the same," the Court remarked during the hearing today.
The petitioners alleged that the fund allotted under the scheme is not sufficient to meet even 50% of the actual cost, and that the Headmasters often had to meet the expenses for the scheme from their salaries, and from borrowed funds. It was also submitted that even the allocated funds were often not disbursed on time.
"Everyday, the Head Master has to go and purchase vegetables. It is now their responsibility," the counsel for the petitioners informed the Court today.
The petitioners averred in their plea that most Head Masters had even taken out heavy personal loans to run the scheme and that they were also not in a position to stop the scheme, lest they be subjected to disciplinary action. The plea added that the Government had no authority to compel the Head Masters to pay from their pockets to run the scheme and that the State should either meet the entire expenses for the scheme and pay the same in advance or stop the same altogether.
The plea thus seeks the issuance of a direction to the Director of General Education absolving the Head Masters from the responsibility of running the Scheme, and to entrust the same with an independent agency. The petitioners seek the issuance of a direction that the Head Masters shall not be bound to implement the Scheme unless the expenses for implementing the same are paid to them every month in advance.
The petitioners have also sought issuance of a direction to the Government to scientifically ascertain the cost of implementing the 'noon-meal scheme', and to disburse the amount required for the same to the Headmasters of the concerned schools every month.
Lastly, as an interim relief, the petitioners seek that the Head Masters shall not be compelled to implement the scheme unless the respondents pay the cost for the same in advance every month, pending the disposal of the plea.
The matter has been posted for further consideration on September 30, 2023.
The plea has been moved through Advocates Tony George Kannanthanam, Thomas George, and Alex George.
Case Title: Kerala Pradesh School Teachers' Association & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Anr.
Case Number: W.P.(C) 29565/ 2023