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Statutory obligation of the Centre and the States to provide nutritional support: Supreme Court of India

It is the statutory obligation of the Centre and the State to provide nutritional support to those who suffer from malnutrition. This was laid down by the honorable Supreme Court of India presided over by J. Ashok Bhushan, J. R. Subhash Reddy and J. M. R. Shah in the case of Dipika Jagatram Sahani vs. Union of India and others. [writ petition (civil) no. 1039 of 2020].

A Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 of the Constitution of India questioning the closure of the Anganwadi centers across the country during the lockdown due to pandemic Covid-19, was filed.  It is a statutory obligation of the Centre and the States to provide for nutritional support to the pregnant women and lactating mothers, nutritional support to children and to take steps to identify and provide meals for children who suffer from malnutrition.  Some of the States stated that decision had been taken not to open the Centers looking to the continuance of the pandemic. Some of the States have stated that the Centers are closed temporarily. It was further pleaded that Government of India, Ministry of Women & Child Development had issued communication (Guidance Note) to States and Union Territories on operations of Anganwadi Services.

The honorable Supreme court held that, “The decision for not opening Anganwadi Centre’s in any State/Union Territories or any part of State/Union Territory shall be taken only after the State Disaster Management Authority of the State direct for not opening of Anganwadi Centres in State/particular area of the State situated outside containment zone.” The court further held that “Anganwadi Centres situated in the containment zone shall not be opened till the containment continues. All States/Union Territories shall ensure that nutritional standards as provided in Schedule II of National Food Security Act, 2013, reproduced herein above in para 13 is fulfilled by providing nutritional support to pregnant women, lactating mothers, nutritional support to children who suffer from malnutrition. All the States/Union Territories shall issue necessary orders regarding monitoring and supervision of Anganwadi Centres to ensure that the benefit reaches to the beneficiaries and a Complaint Redressal Mechanism be put in place in each district”

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