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Lack of mid-day meals due to school shutdown should not deprive kids of food: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that non-availability of mid-day meals to children, as schools in many parts of the country have been shut due to the coronavirus pandemic, should not deprive them of nutritious food.

While dealing with one crisis, the situation may not lead to creation of another crisis as on account of the shutdown of schools and Anganwadis, children as well as lactating and nursing mothers would be deprived of the nutritional food, the top court said while seeking response of the states and Union Territories.

Taking suo motu (on its own) note of the situation, it said all the states and UTs should come out with a uniform policy so as to ensure that while preventing spread of COVID-19, the schemes for providing nutritional food to the children and nursing and lactating mothers are not adversely affected.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R

Gavai and Surya Kant said that non-supply of nutritional food to the children as well as lactating and nursing mothers may lead to large-scale malnourishment.

"Particularly, the children and the lactating and nursing mothers in rural as well as tribal area are prone to such mal-nourishment. Such mal-nutrition may affect their immunity system and as such, such children and lactating and nursing mothers would be more prone to catch the infection. While dealing with one crisis, the situation may not lead to creation of another crisis," the bench said.

The top court issued notice to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Women and Child Development as well as the Chief Secretaries/Chief Administrators/Administrators of all the States and the Union Territories and sought their response on an affidavit within a period of one week from today.

The top court also issued notice to the Resident Commissioners of all the State and Union Territories in Delhi by their respective e-mails.

It appointed senior advocate Sanjay R Hegde as amicus curiae to assist the Court in the matter and posted the matter for further hearing on March 27. The bench said that it is reported, that in some districts, though the schools and Anganwadis have been shut down, the parents have been told to pick up nutritional food for their children from such centres. It noted that in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, most of the States have directed closure of schools and some of the States have also directed closure of Anganwadis.

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