Dipika Jagatram Sahani vs Union Of India on 13 January, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Dipika Jagatram Sahani vs Union Of India on 13 January, 2021

Author: Ashok Bhushan

Bench: Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy, M.R. Shah

                                                                                1

                                                                       REPORTABLE
                                IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                 CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

                            WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.1039 OF 2020

         DIPIKA JAGATRAM SAHANI                              ...PETITIONER(S)

                                               VERSUS

         UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS                           ...RESPONDENT(S)


                                       J U D G M E N T

ASHOK BHUSHAN, J.

This writ petition has been filed as a Public

Interest Litigation under Article 32 of the

Constitution of India questioning the closure of the

Anganwadi Centres across the country. The petitioner

states that through Anganwadi Centres supplementary

nutrition to pregnant women, lactating mothers,

adolescent girls and children upto the age of 6 years

were being provided which fulfilled the State objective

of holistic development of children under 6 years and

to provide food and nutrition to the beneficiaries. In
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by

the writ petition the petitioner impleaded the Union
ASHWANI KUMAR
Date: 2021.01.13
16:03:19 IST
Reason:

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of India, all States and Union Territories and has

prayed for following reliefs:

a) For a writ of mandamus directing the Union
of India and all States and Union
Territories to forthwith reopen all the
Anganwadi Centres in the country and
provide Anganwadi services as before the
lockdown and in accordance with Sections
4 to 7 of the National Food Security Act,
2013.

b) For writ of mandamus directing the Union
of India and all States and Union
Territories to provide Hot Cooked Meals,
Take Home Rations in consonance to the
provisions of the National Food Security
Act, 2013 as well as The Supplementary
Nutrition (under the Integrated Child
Development Services Scheme)Rules, 2020
as well as make provisions for additional
Supplementary Nutrition provisions to all
beneficiaries of the ICDS Scheme in the
form of a comprehensive package of Cooked
Food, Eggs, Fruits, dry rations including
cereals, pulses, etc.

c) For a writ of mandamus directing the Union
of India and all States and Union
Territories to conduct growth monitoring
of children to document growth in the wake
of the after effects of the pandemic more
particularly main nourishment among
children and anemia in girl children and
initiate corrective steps forthwith.

d) For an order in terms of recommendations
1-6 of the Right to Food Campaign in its
representation dated 6.8.20 to the Union
of India at Annexure P-8 hereto and as set
out in paragraph no.37 above.

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e) For any other order deemed fit and proper
under the circumstances of the present
case.”

2. The Constitution of India with the object of

securing to all its citizens social and economic

justice contains various Articles which empower making

of special law in favour of women and children. Article

47 of the Constitution which forms the part of

Directive Principles of the State Policy provides that

the State shall regard the raising of the level of

nutrition and the standard of living of its people and

the improvement of public health as among its primary

duties. The Government of India with the above

objective launched a welfare scheme, namely, Integrated

Child Development Services Scheme in the year 1975. The

Scheme was designed as an early childhood development

programme aimed to address health, nutrition and

development needs of young children who are future of

India and pregnant and nursing mothers. The Scheme was

designed to promote holistic development of children

under 6 years of age. This Court in a Public Interest

Litigation in Writ Petition No.196 of 2001, People’s

Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union of India and
4

others, had issued various directions for protection

of right to food of the poor and the underprivileged

sections including children and women. This Court has

been pro-actively directing the Central Government and

the State Governments to effectively implement the

Integrated Child Development Services Scheme. Various

directions were issued by this Court from time to time.

3. The Parliament enacted the National Food Security

Act, 2013 (hereinafter referred to as the “Act, 2013”)

to provide for food and nutritional security in human

life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate

quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people

to live a life with dignity and for matters connected

therewith. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the

Act apart from containing various other objects,

proposed to provide following also in paragraph 4(c),

(d) and (e):

“4. In view of the preceding paragraphs, it
is proposed to enact a new legislation,
namely, the National Food Security Bill,
2011, to-

…… …… …… ……

(c) entitle every pregnant woman and
lactating mother to meal, free of charge,
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during pregnancy and six months after child
birth, through the local anganwadi, so as to
meet the nutritional standards specified in
Schedule II; and to provide to such women
maternity benefit of rupees one thousand per
month for a period of six months in
accordance with a scheme, including cost
sharing, payable in such instalments as may
be prescribed by the Central Government.

(d) entitle every child up to the age of
fourteen years-(i) age appropriate meal,
free of charge, through the local anganwadi
so as to meet the nutritional standards
specified in Schedule II in the case of
children in the age group of six months to
six years; and (ii) one mid day meal, free
of charge, everyday, except on school
holidays, in all schools run by local
bodies, Government and Government aided
schools, up to class VIII, so as to meet the
nutritional standards specified in Schedule
II in the case of children in the age group
of six to fourteen years;

(e) require the State Government to identify
and provide meals through the local
anganwadi, free of charge, to children who
suffer from malnutrition, so as to meet the
nutritional standards specified in Schedule
II; and implement schemes covering
entitlements of women and children in
accordance with the guidelines, including
cost sharing, between the Central Government
and the State Governments in such manner as
may be prescribed by the Central Government.

4. The Act, 2013 by Section 4 creates a statutory

right of every pregnant woman and lactating mother free

meals during pregnancy and six months after the child
6

birth. Section 5 provides for nutritional support to

children, in the case of children in the age group of

six months to six years, age appropriate meal, free of

charge, through the local Anganwadi so as to meet the

nutritional standards. Similarly, Section 6 provides

for and management of child malnutrition. Sections 4,5

and 6 are as follows:

“Section 4. Nutritional support to pregnant
women and lactating mothers.-Subject to such
schemes as may be framed by the Central
Government, every pregnant woman and lactating
mother shall be entitled to—

(a) meal, free of charge, during pregnancy
and six months after the child birth,
through the local anganwadi, so as to meet
the nutritional standards specified in
Schedule II; and

(b) maternity benefit of not less than
rupees six thousand, in such instalments
as may be prescribed by the Central
Government:

Provided that all pregnant women and
lactating mothers in regular employment with
the Central Government or State Governments or
Public Sector Undertakings or those who are in
receipt of similar benefits under any law for
the time being in force shall not be entitled
to benefits specified in clause (b).

5. Nutritional support to children.- (1)
Subject to the provisions contained in clause

(b), every child up to the age of fourteen years
shall have the following entitlements for his
nutritional needs, namely:—
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(a) in the case of children in the age
group of six months to six years, age
appropriate meal, free of charge, through
the local anganwadi so as to meet the
nutritional standards specified in
Schedule II: Provided that for children
below the age of six months, exclusive
breast feeding shall be promoted;

(b) in the case of children, up to class
VIII or within the age group of six to
fourteen years, whichever is applicable,
one mid-day meal, free of charge, everyday,
except on school holidays, in all schools
run by local bodies, Government and
Government aided schools, so as to meet the
nutritional standards specified in
Schedule II.

(2) Every school, referred to in clause (b)
of sub-section (1), and anganwadi shall have
facilities for cooking meals, drinking water
and sanitation:

Provided that in urban areas facilities of
centralised kitchens for cooking meals may be
used, wherever required, as per the guidelines
issued by the Central Government.

6. Prevention and management of child
malnutrition.- The State Government shall,
through the local anganwadi, identify and
provide meals, free of charge, to children who
suffer from malnutrition, so as to meet the
nutritional standards specified in Schedule
II.”

5. The Anganwadi Centres which were running in the

country since 1975 under the Integrated Child

Development Services Scheme, now have been given
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statutory recognition under the Act, 2013. Section 2(1)

defines Anganwadi in the following words:

“Section 2(1) “anganwadi” means a child care
and development centre set up under the
Integrated Child Development Services Scheme
of the Central Government to render services
covered under section 4, clause (a) of sub-
section (1) of section 5 and 6.”

6. Anganwadi Centres which are manned by Anganwadi

workers/helpers are entrusted with implementation of a

large number of welfare schemes initiated by the

Central Government as well as by the State Governments.

The beneficiaries who are registered with Anganwadi are

also provided following:

a) providing supplementary nutrition;

b) growth monitoring and counseling;

c) pre-school education;

d) immunization and

e) referral services.

7. After spread of pandemic Corona virus(COVID-19),

Anganwadi Centres were closed throughout the country

in March, 2020. The distribution of special nutrition

and other benefits to be provided for beneficiaries
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being essential services were permitted to be conducted

by Anganwadi staff by resorting to Take Home Ration.

8. Under Section 7 of the Act, 2013 it is the

obligation of the State Governments to implement

schemes covering entitlements under Sections 4,5 and 6

of the Act, 2013 in accordance with the guidelines,

including cost sharing, between the Central Government

and the State Governments in such manner as may be

prescribed by the Central Government. The Schedule II

of the Act, 2013 provides for nutritional standards.

Schedule II of the Act, 2013 is as follows:

“SCHEDULE II
[See sections 4(a), 5(1) and 6]
NUTRITIONAL STANDARDS

Nutritional standards: The nutritional
standards for children in the age group of 6
months to 3 years, age group of 3 to 6 years
and pregnant women and lactating mothers
required to be met by providing “Take Home
Rations” or nutritious hot cooked meal in
accordance with the Integrated Child
Development Services Scheme and nutritional
standards for children in lower and upper
primary classes under the Mid Day Meal Scheme
are as follows:

__________________________________________________________________
Serial Category Type of Calories Protein
number meal (Keal) (g)

1. Children(6 months to Take Home Ration 500 12-15
3 years)

2. Children(3 to 6years) Morning Snack and 500 12-15
10

Hot Cooked Meal

3. Children (6 months to Take Home Ration 800 20-25
6 years) who are
malnourished

4. Lower primary classes Hot Cooked Meal 450 12

5. Upper primary classes Hot Cooked Meal 700 20

6. Pregnant women and Take Home Ration 600 18-20
Lactating mothers
__________________________________________

9. The lockdowns which were placed in the entire

country in exercise of the power under the Disaster

Management Act, 2005 were lifted by the competent

authority in phased manner and gradually specified

activities were permitted to be opened.

10. In this writ petition we had issued notice on

21.09.2020 and also directed the petitioner to serve a

copy of the petition to the learned Solicitor General

of India. The counter-affidavits have been filed on

behalf of Union of India. The Union of India has filed

an affidavit dated 20.11.2020. It states that the

Supplementary Nutrition Programme supplied under ICDS

Scheme is of two types for different beneficiaries i.e.

(a)Take Home Ration for pregnant women & lactating

mothers and children in the age group of 6 months to 3
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years; and (b) Morning Snacks and Hot Cooked Meal for

children in the age group of 3-6 years. Since the

Supplementary Nutrition Programme is implemented,

managed and controlled by the respective State/UT, it

is at their discretion to decide items of food to be

supplied under the Supplementary Nutrition as per local

food habits, regional preferences and availability of

food in local area which, however, has to be done by

keeping in view the overall guidelines, nutritional

norms and food safety standards.

11. It has been further pleaded that Government of

India, Ministry of Women & Child Development has issued

communication (Guidance Note) dated 11.11.2020 to

States and Union Territories on operations of Anganwadi

Services.

12. After filing of the affidavit the matter was taken

up by this Court on 27.11.2020 on which dated following

order was passed by this Court:

“The affidavit has been filed on behalf
of the Union of India. In the affidavit it
has been stated that the decision has been
taken on 11.11.2020 and guidelines issued on
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operation of Anganwadi services with
operational guidance note for continuation
of services in the context of COVID-19 which
has been brought on the record as Annexure
R-4.

Let Government of India file a detailed
affidavit with regard to implementation of
the guidelines dated 11.11.2020. The States
may also file an additional affidavit
regarding the measures taken 3 with regard
to guidelines dated 11.11.2020 issued by the
Government of India.

Mr. Colin Gonsalves, learned senior
counsel has also submitted that for small
children, upto 6 years, neither food nor any
education is provided.

With regard to the above aspect also,
in the additional affidavit, details may be
given by the Union of India as well as by
the States. Two weeks’ time is granted. List
in the week commencing from 14.12.2020.”

13. The Union of India as well as the States and Union

Territories have filed affidavits in this writ petition

bringing on record the steps taken by the respective

States/UTs regarding implementation of the requirement

as contained in Sections 4,5 and 6 of the Act, 2013.

14. Shri Colin Gonsalves, learned senior counsel

appearing for the petitioner contends that although

initially under the order issued by the Government of

India, Ministry of Home Affairs beneficiary were not
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to attend the Anganwadi but after lockdown came to an

end due to non-opening of Anganwadi in various States

beneficiaries, children pregnant women and lactating

mothers are suffering. The pandemic has caused severe

strain on the employment and means of livelihood of a

large sections of the society especially marginal

sections, who require immediate extension of all

benefits as envisaged in the Scheme. Shri Gonsalves has

also filed additional documents in support of his writ

petition and submits that even National Human Rights

Commission has also made recommendations on 28.09.2020

and 29.09.2020 after impact assessment, issued advisory

to reopen Anganwadi Centres immediately. Shri Gonsalves

submits that due to non-providing of hot cooked meals

to children upto the age of six years and children who

are affected of malnutrition they are suffering which

needs immediate attention and remedial action.

15. Smt. Aishwarya Bhati, learned Additional Solicitor

General appearing for Union of India submits that Union

of India has filed its Guidance Note dated 11.11.2020

providing resumption of Anganwadi Services outside
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containment zones with immediate effect, after

complying health and safety protocols. It is further

submitted by the learned Additional Solicitor General

that Union of India has also issued an operational

Guidance Note for continuation of services in the

context of COVID-19. The Union of India also referring

to the Guidance Note dated 11.11.2020 has sought status

report from the States and Union Territories. In the

additional affidavit it has been stated that a few of

UTs and States like Andaman and Nicobar, Chhattisgarh,

Goa, Meghalaya and Rajasthan, Anganwadi Centres have

been opened and services are being provided therein.

16. Learned counsel appearing for various States and

Union Territories have also advanced their submissions.

The States and Union Territories in their affidavits

have submitted that the States and Union Territories

have been providing necessary Home Take Ration as per

the requirements to the beneficiaries which were

delivered at door steps once in 15 days. Some of the

States in their affidavits have stated that Anganwadi

Centres have been opened. With regard to few States it
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is stated that matter has been referred and the

approval of the State Government is awaited. Some of

the States have stated that decision has been taken,

as of now, not to open the Centres looking to the

continuance of the pandemic. Some of the States have

stated that the Centres are closed till 31.12.2020 and

decision will be taken thereafter.

17. We have considered submissions of the learned

counsel for the parties and have perused the records.

Children are the next generation and therefore unless

and until the children and the women have the

nutritious food, it will affect the next generation and

ultimately the country as a whole. No one can doubt

that children are the future of our country and if

there is some stinginess in providing them with

adequate nutrition, the country as a whole is deprived

in future of taking the benefit of their potential.

18. As observed above, it is now statutory obligation

of the Centre and the States to provide for nutritional

support to the pregnant women and lactating mothers,
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nutritional support to children and to take steps to

identify and provide meals for children who suffer from

malnutrition. Government has a constitutional

obligation to preserve human life. Good health of its

citizens is its primary duty. International covenants

also aim at highest attainable standards of physical

and mental health. This is in interest of social

justice. Inadequate supply of nutritious food to the

citizens, more particularly to the children and the

women shall affect their health. Therefore, the same

shall be in violation of their fundamental right to

health/right to live with dignity guaranteed under

Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

19. The Centre as well as States are statutorily

obliged to implement statutory obligation as imposed

under Sections 4,5 and 6 of the Act, 2013. The

nutritional support is required to be of the

nutritional standards which have already been laid down

to Schedule II of the Act, 2013 and all States/UTs are

obliged to implement such Scheme and have to comply

with Schedule II. The main emphasis in the writ
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petition being the issue of opening of Anganwadi

Centres throughout the country, we need to first

consider the above issue. Provision of foodgrains as

per the provisions of the National Food Security Act,

2013 is a statutory obligation on the State. Article

47 of the Constitution provides that one of the primary

duties of the State is to raise the level of nutrition

and the standard of living of the people.

20. After issuance of Order dated 24.03.2020 by

Ministry of Home Affairs, for containment of Covid-19,

Anganwadi Centres in States/Union Territories were

closed. The Government of India, Ministry of Women and

Child Development vide letter dated 30.03.2020 directed

issuance of necessary instructions to the District

Authorities to utilize services of Anganwadi

workers/helpers for providing supplementary nutrition

to the beneficiaries at their doorsteps. After taking

suitable measures as suggested by Health Authorities,

Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs issued

an order dated 15.04.2020 in exercise of powers under

Section 10(2)(l) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005,
18

wherein in paragraph 8, it was provided that Anganwadis

shall remain functional by distributing the food items

and nutrition once in fifteen days at the doorsteps of

the beneficiaries i.e. Children, pregnant women and

lactating mothers. The order further stated the

beneficiaries shall not attend the Anganwadi.

21. By subsequent order issued by the Government of

India, Ministry of Home Affairs, various more

activities were permitted. ON 14.10.2020, the Ministry

of Women and Child Development wrote to the Ministry

of Home Affairs (Disaster Management Division)

regarding reopening of Anganwadi Centres. The

Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, issued

an O.M. dated 22.10.2020 stating that the Ministry of

Women and Child Development may take decision after

consultation with concerned States/Union Territories

for reopening of Anganwadi centres which are out of the

containment zone taking appropriate measures related

to health and safety.

22. The Government of India, Ministry of Women and

Child Development issued a guidance note on 11.11.2020
19

on operation of Anganwadi services, which note is to

the following effect: –

“F. No. PA/85/2020-CPMU C No 85941
Government of India
Ministry of Women & Child Development

Jeevan Vihar Building,
New Delhi – 110001
11 t h November, 2020
To
The Principal Secretaries/ Secretaries,
Department of Social Welfare/ Women & Child
Development of all States/UTs

Subject: Guidance note on operations of
Anganwadi Services — regarding,

Sir/Madam,

Under-nutrition is one of the leading
causes of morbidity and mortality in
children under the age of 5 years. Delivery of
preventive services to mitigate the impact of the
pandemic on the nutrition is well recognized.
Provision of essential services like Growth
Monitoring Referral, and supplementary
nutrition etc. to ensure the health and well-
being of the pregnant ladies, lactating mothers
and children below 5 years is most important. In
view of Covidl9 pandemic globally, it is
imperative to ensure, that the beneficiaries
do not suffer and remain away from Anganwadi
services.

2. Hence, Anganwadi Services may be
resumed outside containment zones with
immediate effect, complying health and safety
protocols. Further, cleanliness, Hygiene and
Sanitization may be ensured in and around the
premises of Anganwadi Center, use of
mask/face covers shall be mandatory for
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everyone visiting the Centre, including AWW
and AWH. Also, frequent hand washing, and
strict social distancing as per MoHFW
guidelines must be followed at Anganwadi
Centre.

3. Ministry of Women and Child Development
has taken up the matter with Ministry of
Home Affairs regarding reopening of AWCs.
Ministry of Home Affairs vide OM No. 40-
6/2020/DM-1(A)/Part-2 dated 22nd October
2020 (copy enclosed) advised that AWCs may
be opened outside the containment zones, by
adhering to the Standard Operating Procedures
(SOP) related to health and security measures
in consultation with State/UTs.

4. A guidance note for resuming Anganwadi
Services is enclosed herewith. Based on the
guidance note, States / UT Governments need
to develop their own SOP for reopening AWC
when the State/Union Territory Governments
declare it safe for AWC to operate. All
States/UTs are expected to comply with the
COVID-19 related directions issued by
Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of
Health and Family Welfare, Government of
India, from time to time.

5. Therefore, it is requested that
States/UTs may decide reopening of AWCs
outside containment zones while adhering to
health and safety protocols as per the
guidelines of MOHFW.

Yours sincerely,

Executive Director,
POSHAN Abhiyan, MWCD
Copy to:

PS to Minister,
PS to MoS,
Secretary MoHFW and Secretary MHA”
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23. It is also relevant to notice that in the month of

September, 2020, the National Human Rights Commission

issued an advisory on Right to food security and

nutrition in context of Covid-19. The National Human

Rights Commission issued following Advisory dated

28.09.2020 Related to Nutrition: –

“I. Implementation of Anganwadi Services

i. Recognise ICDS as an ESSENTIAL SERVICE
and reopen anganwadi centres
immediately to provide crucial growth
monitoring, immunization, cooked meal,
and nutritional counselling services,
with adequate safety protocols to
prevent COVID infection for anganwadi
workers, women and children.

ii. Ensure that sufficient quantity of dry
rations (food grains, eggs, milk
powder and medicines, etc.) and take-
home rations are made available to
children under three years, as well as
pregnant and lactating women.”

24. After issuing a guidance note on 11.11.2020,

several States have taken decision to open Anganwadi

Centres. The State of Meghalaya opened its Anganwadi

Centres w.e.f. 03.12.2020. The State of Punjab opened

its Anganwadi Centres w.e.f. 09.12.2020, the State of
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Rajasthan also opened its Anganwadi Centres w.e.f.

07.12.2020.

25. Even before the order dated 11.11.2020, the State

of Chhattisgarh had opened 12,593 Anganwadi Centres in

the State w.e.f. September, 2020. It is relevant to

notice the affidavit filed on behalf of the State of

Arunachal Pradesh. The State of Arunachal Pradesh

issued an order dated 18.06.2020 titled “Strategy for

opening of Anganwadi Centres” and under the aforesaid

strategies, Anganwadi Centres were to be reopened in

two phases, first Phase-I from 15.07.2020 and phase-II

from 01.08.2020. Standard Operating Procedure dated

18.06.2020 was issued by the Government of Arunachal

Pradesh, Ministry of Women and Child Development

department.

26. On the other hand, there are few States who have

taken decision not to reopen Anganwadi Centres. We may

notice the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the

State of Assam. In the affidavit, it has been stated

that Anganwadi Centres will be open as and when the
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permission will be accorded by the Central Government

in this regard. The State of Assam is under the

impression that the order issued by the Ministry of

Home Affairs dated 25.11.2020, provides for not opening

of the Centres. The order dated 25.11.2020 of

Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, filed

as Annexure-R1. Paragraph 16 which contains the heading

“protection of Vulnerable persons” is as follows: –

“16. Persons above 65 years of age,
persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women,
and children below the age of 10 years are
advised to stay at home, except for
essential and health purposes.”

27. The paragraph 16 as noted above does not in any

manner create any prohibition in opening of Anganwadi

Centres. The above guidelines have been issued keeping

in view the protection of vulnerable persons and which

requires pregnant women, children below the age of 10

years to stay at home except for essential and health

purposes. Services which are being provided by

Anganwadi Centres are essential services.
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28. We have already noticed the guidance note dated

11.11.2020 issued by Government of India which permits

reopening of Anganwadi Centres with consultation of

States/Union Territories. State of Assam was thus fully

empowered to take the decision regarding reopening of

Anganwadi Centres and its stand taken in paragraph 7

to the following effect- “All Anganwadi Centres will

be opened as and when the permission is accorded by the

Central Government in this regard” is not correct. The

State could have very well taken a decision for

reopening the Anganwadi Centres in view of the guidance

note issued by the Government of India dated

11.11.2020.

29. The State of Maharashtra in its affidavit has

stated that the Disaster Management department has

restricted the reopening of Anganwadi Centres till the

control of Covid-19 pandemic in the State and has

approved the continuation of arrangement of supplies

of Take Home Rations at the doorsteps of the

beneficiaries. Some of the States have also in their

affidavits stated that Anganwadi Centres be closed till
25

particular date like State of Tripura states that

Anganwadi Centres are to be closed till 31.12.2020,

State of Mizoram states that Anganwadi Centres be

closed till 10.01.2021. Some of the States/Union

Territories have stated that the approval from the

States/Union Territories are awaited for reopening of

Anganwadi Centres.

30. All the States/Union Territories in their

affidavits have given details of providing Take Home

Rations(THR) as per guidelines and requirement

contained in Act, 2013. Different cereals and other

items have been referred to in the affidavits filed by

the States/Union Territories which according to them

complies with nutrition standards. Most of the

States/Union Territories have mentioned cereals as Take

Home Ration for the beneficiaries from 3 to 6 years of

age. The State of Maharashtra claim to supply

Wheat/Rice-62 grams, Masoor Dal-28 grams, Chana-30

grams, Mirchi Powder-4 grams, Turmeric Powder-4 grams,

Salt-8 grams, Soybean Oil-10 gram per day per

beneficiary.

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31. The State of Bihar for a few months has not supplied

Take Home Rations rather it has directed for crediting

the amount equivalent to Take Home Ration to the Bank

Account of the beneficiaries or their parents. The

State of Bihar, however, has started distributing

cereals as Home Take Rations by orders issued by the

State of Bihar in April, 2020. The State of Gujarat in

its affidavit has stated that it is providing to

Children (below 6 years of Age), 8 packets of Balshakti

(500gm Packets) Take Home Ration per month to match up

nutritional requirements. Take Home Ration is being

distributed through the medium of Gujarat Cooperative

Milk Marketing Federation. It further states that since

June 2020, the ready to eat nutritional traditional

sweet (Sukhadi) 1-Kilogram per week in lieu of hot

cooked meals is provided to 3 to 6 years’ children. We

are of the view that the State ought to have included

certain cereals in Take Home Ration instead of

providing only ‘Balshakti’ and ‘Sukhadi’. The

nutritional standard as provided in Schedule II of Act,

2013, has to be met by all States and Union Territories.
27

32. There is no doubt that the Central Government as

well as all the States and Union Territories have

issued necessary guidelines for implementing statutory

requirements of Act, 2013 and for meeting the

nutritional standards. The big question however is as

to what extent the implementation is on the ground and

the benefits are extended to beneficiaries as required

by the Statute. The beneficiaries which belong to

vulnerable class are not equipped with suitable

mechanisms to raise issues of non-implementation and

not providing food articles complying with nutritional

standards as provided in the Statute.

33. It is the obligation of the State to ensure that

pregnant women, lactating mothers and children in the

age of 3 to 6 years and children who suffer from

malnutrition are provided their dues. The State has to

provide an appropriate mechanism for supervision and

check, child development officers and other district

level officers who are entrusted to monitor the

functioning of Anganwadi Centres have to be extra
28

vigilant and take steps so that no beneficiary is

denied its dues. All States/Union Territories should

evolve an appropriate mechanism for supervision so that

dues are received by beneficiaries for whom schemes are

in place. It is for the State to secure health to its

citizens as its primary duty. No doubt, the Government

is rendering this obligation through various schemes,

such as, opening of Aanganwadis, providing nutritious

food through Aanganwadis, Mid-day Meal Scheme, etc.,

but in order to make it meaningful, it has to be within

the reach of its people, as far as possible, and the

Government must supply the nutritious food in the real

sense bearing in mind the provisions of National Food

Security Act.

34. The Government of India by its guidance note

permitted all the States and Union Territories to open

Anganwadi Centres, it is the obligation of the

States/Union Territories to take decision for opening

of Anganwadi Centres. As noted above, several

States/Union Territories have already started running

their Anganwadi Centres which is a positive step
29

towards achievement of the goal for which Anganwadi

Centres were envisaged. We are of the view that unless

there are any specific reasons for not opening of

Anganwadi Centres, all Anganwadi Centres beyond the

containment zones should be made functional by all the

States/Union Territories at an early date. All States

may review the situation and take positive decisions

on or before 31.01.2021 and unless there are specific

decisions taken by the State Disaster Management

Authority of a particular State, Anganwadi Centres be

opened on or before 31.01.2021.

35. In view of the above discussions, we allow this

writ petition with following directions: –

I) As per guidance note dated 11.11.2020 issued

by Government of India, Ministry of Women and

Child Development, all States/Union

Territories who have not yet opened Anganwadi

Centres shall take a decision to open

Anganwadi Centres on or before 31.01.2021

situated outside the containment zone.

30

II) The decision for not opening Anganwadi

Centres 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.

III) Anganwadi Centres situated in the containment

zone shall not be opened till the containment

continues.

IV) 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.

31

V) 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.

36. The parties shall bear their own costs.

………………….J.

( ASHOK BHUSHAN )

………………….J.

( R. SUBHASH REDDY )

………………….J.

( M.R. SHAH )
New Delhi,
January 13, 2021.



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