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Kerala High Court Stays Orders Of Lakshadweep Administration To Close Down Dairy Farms & Remove Meat From School Children's Diet

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
22 Jun 2021 12:10 PM GMT
Kerala High Court Stays Orders Of Lakshadweep Administration To Close Down Dairy Farms & Remove Meat From School Childrens Diet
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The Kerala High Court on Tuesday stayed the operation of two controversial orders passed by the Lakshadweeep administration under its new administrator Praful Khoda Patel.The first one is an order for the closing down of the dairy farms run by the administration in the island. The second one was a decision to change the diet for school children by removing chicken and other meat from...

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday stayed the operation of two controversial orders passed by the Lakshadweeep administration under its new administrator Praful Khoda Patel.

The first one is an order for the closing down of the dairy farms run by the administration in the island. The second one was a decision to change the diet for school children by removing chicken and other meat from midday meals.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly stayed these orders on a PIL filed by one Ajmel Ahmed, a lawyer who is a native of Kavaratti, Lakshadweep.

Advocate Peeyus Kottam, who appeared for the petitioner, confirmed with LawLaw that these two orders have been stayed. The copy of the order is awaited.

The bench has also asked the island administration to respond to the PIL within two weeks.

The bench passed the following orders :

(i) Functioning of the dairy farms should be continued until further orders

(ii) Food, including meat, chicken, fish and egg, and other items, prepared and served to the school going children of Lakshadweep, as done in the past, should be continued until further orders. To make it clear, the earlier system should continue.

(iii) Respondents are directed to file their counter along with supporting documents.

The controversial order on closing down of dairy farms was passed by the Director,Department of Animal Husbandry on May 21. The order directed to immediately close down all the dairy farms run by Animal Husbandry Department, and also directed the veterinary units to dispose of the available animals like bulls and calves by auction,after giving wide publication and other formalities.

The petitioner alleged that this order was passed with a malicious intention to change the food habits of the island inhabitants. According to the petitioner, this was a prelude to the implementation of the proposed Animal Preservation (Regulation),2021, which seeks to ban cattle slaughter and consumption of beef and beef products. The petitioner further alleged that the closing down of local dairy farms was done also with the ulterior motive of promoting dairy products of a manufacturer from Gujarat.

Though public notice was put out for the auction of cattle, the auction did not take place as no bidder turned up, the petitioner says. 

Also, with the intention of altering the food habits of the children in the island, chicken and other meat were removed from the mid-day meals.  This was done without any deliberations or consultations with the stakeholders, the petitioner alleged. It was also alleged that this came as a part of decision to entrust the Mid Day Meal program to a Bangalore based NGO called "Akshaya Patra". However, this submission was denied by the Lakshadweep administration, whose standing counsel told the bench that there is no proposa lto entrust the work relating to preparation of Mid Day Meals to the said NGO. Therefore, the Court said that it is not necessary to address this issue at present.

The petitioner challenged these decisions as "arbitrary and discriminatory" violating Article 14 of the Constitution.  It was also argued that these decisions interfered with the traditional culture and food habits of the people, and violated their right to choice and preserve culture.  Thus the orders were violative of right to privacy and right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

"The 3rd respondent in his official possession as administrator of Dweep is acting in a belligerent manner and attempting to attack the culture and heritage being followed by islanders for decades", the petition said.

"The Administrator is attempting to impose his hidden and mischievous personal agenda, which he is being followed, on the islanders in blatant violation of Article 15,16,19,21 and 300A of Constitution of India", the petition said.

The writ petition sought a direction to restrain the Lakshadweep administrator from "implementing any reforms infringing the ethnic culture, heritage, food habit and affecting the serene and calm atmosphere in the Lakshadweep Islands and also infringing the constitutional right guaranteed under Article19 and 300A of the Constitution of India".

Court's observations

The Court said that it was unable to understand why the food menu of school children was changed by the Lakshadweep administration by removing chicken and meat from mid-day meals.

"...we are unable to understand how there could be a change in the menu of food-items given to the children, prepared taking into account, the vital aspect of health factor", observed the division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly.

Advocate Peeyus A. Kottam had appeared for the petitioner arguing 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 Department of Animal Husbandry and holding auctions for this regard was contended to bring grave consequences to the people on the islands.

Moreover, it was submitted that deletion of meat from the menu as per the order was contrary to the National Programme of Mid Day Meal in Schools and Annual Budget for 2020-21, wherein there is a provision to provide meat and chicken to the children in the schools of Lakshadweep.

Since decisions taken after the present Administrator assumed office have largely affected the interest of people, the petition sought directions to the concerned authorities to refrain from implementing the reforms, citing that they infringe upon the ethnic culture, heritage and the food habits of the people of Lakshadweep.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly observed that the menu for the mid day meal has been fixed and followed for several years, ever since its inception. A perusal of the National Programme also indicated that meat should be served to children.

The Court failed to understand how such a sudden change could be brought to the menu for children considering the vital aspect of health factor. The minutes of the Meeting also disclosed an attendee physician's opinion that non-vegetarian food is essential for the growth of children and for a healthy balanced diet, which has not been considered by the Administrator.

Since there was no prima facie reason pressing for exclusion of meat and chicken from the menu, the Bench issued an interim order directing the respondents, to provide food as before, by including meat and chicken, to the children of the schools in Lakshadweep.

"Prima facie, we find no reason for the change of fooditems, with the exclusion of meat and chicken. Therefore, we are inclined to pass an interim order directing the respondents,to provide food, as done before, by including meat and chicken,to the children of the schools in Lakshadweep", the bench observed.

Regarding the shutdown of dairy farms, the Division Bench opined that although the Administrator argues that it is necessary to avoid financial loss to the Administration, the e-mail did not indicate anything to that effect. Therefore, the Court ordered that the farms be allowed to continue until further orders.

As such, the Bench stayed the operation of the said orders pending disposal of the writ petition.


Click here to read/download the order









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