SC asks Centre to frame a comprehensive policy for the Supplementary Nutrition Programme
Brief: The Supreme Court on 2nd May, 2018 has directed the Union of India to prepare a detailed policy for the operation of both schemes i.e. Take Home Ration and Hot Cooked Meals under Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) applicable to all the States and Union Territories with recipes as well as the production procedures and the scale of operations. Date of Ruling: 2nd May 2018 Forum: Supreme Court of India Summary The Government of India initiated Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) in 1975 under which they introduced two schemes: Take Home Ration (THR) Scheme to provide food ration for children from 6 months to 3 years age along with pregnant and lactating women, and Hot Cooked Meals (HCM) Scheme to provide food to children ageing from 3 years to 6 years. The Supreme Court through its various orders in the famous Right to Food case (W.P. (C.) No. 196 of 2001) directed the Union of India that the supply and distribution of the food rations under these schemes shall be conducted by the Government in a decentralized manner and through Mahila Mandals and Self Help Groups and not by the means of contractors. Subsequently, Maharashtra government invited tenders for the Take Home Ration Scheme in March 2016 in a centralized manner. The validity of the tender was challenged in Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench. The Court upheld the validity of the tender and hence, Vaishno Rani Mahila Bachat Gat challenged the High Court’s order through Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court in SLP (C.) No. 10103/2016. The March 2016 notification of tender was also challenged in High Court of Bombay, Aurangabad Bench, by another Mahila Mandal, wherein the High Court passed an order validating all the terms and conditions of the tender but asked the State of Maharashtra to decentralize the scale of operations. The order of the High Court was challenged in Supreme Court through Special Leave Petition no. by the petitioners Jayshree Mahila Bachat Gat in SLP (C.) No. 2177/2017. Thereafter, Maharashtra Government called for tender for Hot Cooked Meals Scheme on centralized scale in July 2017. The tender was subsequently challenged in Bombay High Court. The High Court passed an interim order on March 8, 2018 in the aforementioned petition and directed the State of Maharashtra to give work orders to the selected agencies on an interim basis. The same was challenged in Supreme Court by the Petitioner Jijau Mahila Bachat Gat through Special Leave by SLP (C.) No. 8244/2018. All three Special Leave Petitions were clubbed together and the Supreme Court passed an order on the hearing dated May 2, 2018, asking the Union of India to prepare a detailed policy for the operation of both the schemes i.e. Take Home Ration Scheme and Hot Cooked Meals Scheme, applicable to all States and Union Territories, with recipes as well as the production procedures and the scale of operations. The excerpt of the order is as follows: 1. A communication dated 26.4.2018, has been placed on record, pointing out that a meeting of all the States/Union Territories and the line Ministries on Supplementary Nutrition, has been called. The same is being organized on 2.5.2018, i.e., today, in which a common scheme for all the States/Union Territories is going to be adopted. 2. Let the outcome of the meeting be notified to this Court on the next date of hearing. Outcome: A comprehensive policy being framed by the Union of India for the Supplementary Nutrition Programme which would be beneficial for all the beneficiaries of the ICDS Scheme. Significance: The following issues are involved in the present case: - Supply and distribution of food rations to children below the age of 6 years as well as to pregnant and lactating women. - Potential problems in case of centralisation of the supply and distribution channel. - Effective implementation of policies made by the Government for welfare of children. - Even after the orders by the Supreme Court in the Right to Food case, State of Maharashtra failed in complying with the directions issued by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court by order dated 2nd May, 2018, directs the Union of India to make a uniform policy for the supply and distribution of the food ration to the children below 6 years of age as well as pregnant and lactating women for their benefit through the decentralised channels prescribed i.e. Mahila Mandals and Self Help Groups for faster supply and distribution of food ration and maintaining the flexibility of the system so that all the people concerned can utilize the benefits of the amenities provided to them. The guidelines from the Union are awaited for implementation of both the policies i.e. Take Home Ration and Home Cooked Meals under Integrated Child Development Scheme.