11:11 AM, Friday,15 September 2023
Bench insists the decision to pull out meat was government policy and there was no apparent arbitrariness in the decision
The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed an appeal against the Lakshadweep administration’s decision to stop serving meat in mid-day meals for school children in the islands.
A Bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M. Trivedi rejected arguments by the petitioner, advocate Ajmal Ahmed, a resident of the Union Territory, that meat was part of the islands’ culture and an essential dietary ingredient for the children, who were mostly from tribal families.
But the Bench insisted that the decision to pull out meat from the menu was government policy. There was no apparent illegality or arbitrariness in the decision.
“It is not within the domain of the court to decide as to what would be the choice of food for children of a particular region. There is no scope of guesswork by the law courts on that count. The court will have to accept the administrative decision in this regard unless some outstanding arbitrariness is pointed out,” the Bench reasoned.
Besides, the court said it did not decide “culture”. The Bench said there was a vested right to mid-day meal but not to pick and choose the menu.
“So far as the mid-day meal is concerned, the administration has retained non-vegetarian items like egg and fish, which Additional Solicitor-General K.M. Nataraj [appearing for the Lakshadweep administration] submits is available in abundance in the islands,” the court observed in the order.
Meat was struck off the school mid-day meal menu by the newly-formed administration of the Lakshadweep in 2021.