Right to Food Campaign
Mid-day Meals: Supreme Court Orders
Supreme Court Orders
In a landmark order on 28 November 2001, the Supreme Court directed state governments to introduce cooked mid-day meals in all government and government-assisted primary schools within six months. This page provides excerpts from that and subsequent orders.
More information can also be found on pp. 18-21 of Supreme Court Orders on the Right to Food: A Tool for Action (November 2005).
28 November 2001 [complete text]
It is the case of the Union of India that there has been full compliance with regard to the Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDMS). However, if any of the States gives a specific instance of non-compliance, the Union of India will do the needful within the framework of the Scheme.
2 May 2003 [complete text]
Some States in implementation of the said direction [of 28 November 2001] are supplying cooked mid day meal to the students. We are, however, told that despite the fact that 11?2 years has passed, some of the States have not even made a beginning. Particular reference has been made to States of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. It is not in dispute that in these three State even beginning has not been made whereas some of the other States are fully implementing directions for supply of cooked Mid Day Meal.
20 April 2004 [complete text]
[...]In one of the orders earlier passed, this Court had observed about the impact of this public interest litigation on the very existence of large section of poor people, their right to life and right to food to those who can ill-afford to provide to their families two meals a day and their misfortune becoming further grave during famine and drought.
On 28th November, 2001, this Court directed the State Governments/Union Territories to implement mid-day meal scheme by providing every child in every government and government aided primary school with a prepared mid-day meal with a minimum content of 300 calories and 8-12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days. The said order further directed that those governments which provide dry rations instead of cooked meals, within three months, should start providing cooked meals in all government and government aided primary schools in half of the districts of the State (in order of poverty) and must, within further period of three months, extend the provision of cooked meals to the remaining parts of the State.
By an order dated 29th October, 2002, it was made clear that in case of persistent default in compliance of the orders of this Court, the concerned Chief Secretaries/Administrators of the States/Union Territories shall be held responsible. It was brought to the notice of the Court that despite orders having been passed, some of the States had not even made a beginning. In the order dated 2nd May, 2003, this Court observed the manner in which the directions were being flouted in some of the States. In that order, specific reference was made to the States of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The type of the affidavit that was filed has also been commented upon since it was not stated in the affidavit as to when the State of Bihar proposed to start the supply of mid-day meal, in how many districts they proposed to start it and what scheme had been formulated. The order noticed that every conceivable detail had been missing. Ultimately, the State of Bihar was directed to make a beginning by supplying cooked mid-day meal and implement the said scheme in at least ten districts which might be most poor according to the State's perception. Similarly, the States of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and other States were also directed to make a meaningful beginning of the scheme in at least 25% of the districts which might be most poor.
After the orders were made on 2nd May, 2003, various reports have been filed in regard to the implementation of the directions for supply of the cooked mid-day meal in schools in terms of directions contained in the order dated 28th November, 2001.
We have perused the affidavits and heard learned counsel representing the States of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. There are other States and Union Territories as well in respect whereof the aforesaid Reports of the Commissioners have commented upon. Some of the States/Union Territories have not made even a beginning despite lapse of so many years; some have only made a partial beginning; some have made a token beginning and only few of the States have fully implemented the order in respect of cooked mid-day meals that was passed on 28th November, 2001.
Some of the States which claim that they have made a beginning and are partially implementing the scheme have also not given the full and complete details so that this Court could know the extent of the implementation. Most of the affidavits only set out the number of schools and the students where the scheme was being implemented. What was required to be done was to simply state as to how many schools in a particular State/Union Territory would be covered under the directions for supply of cooked mid-day meal, how many students in the said school would be eligible for the benefit and then give the number of the schools and the students who are being supplied cooked meals. The affidavits provide only a part of information without specifying the number of eligible schools and students.
Be that as it may, Table-1 to the second Report of the Commissioners sets out broadly the States which have implemented it fully or partially or have not responded to the queries of the Commissioners. We may, however, note that after the said Report, there has been some improvement by a token beginning having been made by some of the States. The Report of the Commissioners, on the basis of their earlier experience, states that nutritious mid-day meal at schools can be a highly effective way of protecting children from hunger and can also boost school attendance among girls. It also notices some of the areas where such meals are supplied even during the school vacations, especially in drought affected areas. None can question the desirability of extension of this facility even during vacations in drought affected areas where children are deprived of even one day meal.
It is a matter of anguish that despite lapse of nearly three and half years, the order dated 28th November, 2001 has not been fully implemented by all the States and Union Territories. As already stated earlier, many of the States have given only half-baked information and figures. Further, we wish to make it clear that the fact that some of the States were permitted to at least make a start in some of the districts in terms of the order dated 2nd May, 2003 does not mean that this Court has modified or varied the earlier order dated 28th November, 2001. It is a constitutional duty of every State and Union Territory to implement in letter and spirit the directions contained in the order dated 28th November, 2001. We may also note that the suggestions given by Health India would be considered at an appropriate stage.
The petitioner has also made a reference to the announcement made by the Prime Minister extending the mid-day meal scheme upto 10th Standard during his address to the Nation on 15th August, 2003. The suggestion is that extension should be made operational at the earliest. In reply, it has been contended that once the mid-day meal scheme at primary level is consolidated, the question of extension of the scheme upto 10th Standard can be taken up in a phased manner. In this connection, it has been pointed out that the views of various States have been asked in regard to the cost and logistic requirements for the extension of the scheme upto 10th Standard.
Further, the petitioner, referring to the recommendations of the Abhijit Sen Committee appointed by Government of India regarding sharing of conversion cost of implementing the cooked mid-day meal scheme, suggests that the Government should implement that scheme. The Government is stated to be presently discussing the modalities with the concerned Ministries and Planning Commission to provide assistance for meeting with a part of conversion costs towards effective implementation of the said scheme.
Having regard to the aforesaid, in respect of cooked mid-day meal scheme, we issue the following directions:
The issue as to the implementation of this scheme will be considered in the month of September, 2004.
Last updated: 20 October 2009