9 Feb 2023 4:54 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the civic body of Malegaon city in Maharashtra to conduct surprise inspections at 27 government aided schools and ascertain if they had operational kitchens and storage rooms to provide midday meals for its students. A division bench of Justices GS Patel and Neela Gokhale was hearing the schools’ petitions seeking directions to the...
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the civic body of Malegaon city in Maharashtra to conduct surprise inspections at 27 government aided schools and ascertain if they had operational kitchens and storage rooms to provide midday meals for its students.
A division bench of Justices GS Patel and Neela Gokhale was hearing the schools’ petitions seeking directions to the municipal corporation to re-start supplying uncooked grains instead of asking schools to take cooked meals from the centralized community kitchen chains.
The schools claimed that they were supplied foodgrains between 2000-2019, till the State came up with a revised policy following SC’s guidelines on centralized kitchens. They complained about the punctuality and quantity of food provided through these kitchens.
“We are not allowing you to outsource the cooking. You don't have the fundamental right to poison children because you are a minority institution…We cannot take the risk,” Justice Patel said refusing to even consider the proposition that the schools may by supplied food grains and outsource the cooking.
“But we are not poisoning anyone, please see our complaints,” Advocate NR Bubna for the petitioners said.
According to the fresh tenders issued by the State, schools that didn’t have the requisite kitchen facilities would have to take cooked meals from centralised kitchens. Following the petitioners’ claim that they could provide meals, the court ordered an inspection by February 22 and posted the case for hearing on February 28, 2023.
The bench allowed midday meals to be provided by the centralised kitchens in the interim. During the inspection the civic body must check if there were designated kitchens, staff, storage rooms, clean drinking water, drainage systems and inventory books, the court said.
“We are not stopping the midday meal scheme but it comes with the caveat that the quality of food must be maintained,” the court told the petitioners and gave examples of sub-standard meals being provided to students in other schools.
During the hearing the court also heard the lawyers for Alpa Utpanna Ghatt Mahila Ghruh Udyog Sahakari Udyogig Utpadan Santha Ltd, the organisation making the midday meals. It submitted that only six of the 165 schools in Malegaon had the required kitchen facilities. Moreover, even before the scheme schools would commission them to cook meals.
After hearing all the parties the bench noted in the order, “In the state there is no absolute prohibition on schools preparing its own midday meal. It is equally not necessary for schools to have the infrastructure to prepare their meals and can receive the midday meals.”
In the order the court specifically sought to know if grains were being diverted elsewhere, “We do not want the municipal corporation to give any school an advance notice so that overnight arrangement is made," Justice Patel said.
Anjuman Moinut Tulba Vs Education Officer Primary & Ors [WRIT PETITION NO. 9556 OF 2022]
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Bom) 77
Click Here To Read/Download Order