The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Lakshadweep administration to continue including non-vegetarian food in midday meals for school children and allow the operation of dairy farms in the archipelago, Live Law reported.

A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and AS Bopanna was hearing an appeal filed by Ajmal Ahmed, a lawyer and a resident of the islands.

Ahmed had challenged a September 2021 Kerala High Court verdict rejecting his public interest litigation against the Lakshadweep administration’s decision to ban meat from midday meals and to shut down dairy farms in the region.

Ahmed contended that the regulations introduced by Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel infringe upon the heritage, ethnic culture, food habits and the rights of the residents granted under the Constitution of India.

His plea pointed out that Lakshadweep had been providing midday meals, including meat, since 1950s to students from pre-primary to elementary levels, Bar and Bench reported. Since 2009, non-vegetarian meals were given to students till Class 12 as well, the plea added.

The introduction of a new menu without any meat items was in violation of the Right to Food under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the plea submitted.

The petitioner also argued that the administration’s order to close down dairy farms was done with the “intention to implement the proposed Animal Preservation (Regulation), 2021, which bans slaughter of cows, calves, bulls, etc”, reported Bar and Bench.

“By closing down dairy farms, the residents of the islands will be forced to purchase milk products that are produced by private companies from other states such as Gujarat,” the plea stated.

Before dismissing Ahmed’s petition in September, the Kerala High Court had in June stayed the administration’s decisions. It had granted the Centre two weeks’ time to file its counter-affidavit.

The High Court’s order had come amid a massive outcry among the residents of the Union Territory as well as Opposition parties.

Later, however, the High Court accepted the Central government’s stance that the new menu was created after considering experts’ recommendation and the availability of food on the islands.

On Monday, the Supreme Court revived the High Court’s interim order passed in June and directed the administration to continue serving meat items in midday meals. It also sought a response from the Centre on Ahmed’s plea challenging the Kerala High Court verdict.