The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the Lakshadweep administration’s decision to ban meat from midday meals and to shut down dairy farms in the region, Bar and Bench reported.
A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi said that the judiciary cannot interfere with such policy or administrative decisions.
“No legal breach has been pointed out in the policy decisions,” the court said in its order. “It is not the court’s domain as to what food should be eaten by children of a particular region.”
The court 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. The High Court’s order had come amid a massive outcry among the residents of the Union Territory as well as Opposition parties.
In his plea before the Supreme Court, he had 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 the 1950s to students from pre-primary to elementary levels. Since 2009, non-vegetarian meals had been given to students till Class 12 as well, the plea added.
In May last year, in an interim relief, the Supreme Court, had 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.
Last month, Additional Solicitor-General KM Nataraj had said that the entire process has been brought to a “standstill” due to the stay order of the Supreme Court. He had also argued that the decision was a policy decision and should be left to the wisdom of the executive, according to Live Law.
On Thursday, Senior Advocate IH Syed, appearing for Ahmed, argued that the Lakshadweep administration’s decision goes against the Union government’s policies on the midday meal scheme.
He also pointed out that the Lakshadweep administration had decided to drop non-vegetarian food such as chicken, beef and other meat from the menu despite expert advice to the contrary.
The court, however, weighed in saying this was not an issue where the courts could interfere, reported Bar and Bench.
“We cannot question why this law is brought or this policy is changed,” Justice Bose said. “If it affects fundamental rights, then possibly courts can interfere...We do not have the expertise to find out whether other food is being liked or not.”