The Supreme Court on Tuesday slapped a fine on five states and Delhi, saying they were "not taking seriously" the matter related to the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme in schools.
The apex court directed states of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Jammu and Kashmir to pay Rs one lakh each as costs for their failure to create an online link along with a chart meant for monitoring the implementation and hygiene of mid-day meal scheme in government-run schools.
The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta, directed that the costs be deposited with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee within four weeks.
"The mid-day meal scheme, which is of considerable benefit to the children in the country, is not being taken seriously by several states. Data has not been supplied and there are allegations made by the petitioner about foodgrains disappearing and not reaching the schools and thereby denying the benefit of the mid-day meal scheme to children," the bench said.
"We have been trying to get the states to render assistance and to upload all the data so that necessary corrective steps can be taken from time to time. In spite of several of our orders, there has been little or no co-operation from some of the states," it said.
The bench said that on October 26, the states of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Odisha had said they would comply with the requirements of the scheme and provide necessary online links but "more than a month has gone by and there has been absolutely no progress made by these states".
"Since the states have not supplied the necessary links or the details which are required for effective implementation of the scheme, we have been left with no option but to impose costs for this totally unnecessary adjournment and for effectively denying benefits to the children of their states to which they are entitled," the bench said.
The counsel appearing for Jammu and Kashmir said they have already created the online link but it was not working.
The bench has posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks.
The apex court had earlier noted that two committees at national and state levels were suggested to be set up to monitor various aspects like maintaining hygiene in the mid-day meal schemes in schools.
The court was hearing a plea filed by NGO 'Antarrashtriya Manav Adhikaar Nigraani Parishad' in 2013 on the issue of mid-day meals.
The top court had on March 23 last year asked the state governments and Union Territories to upload the information including the total number of students getting the benefit of the mid-day meal scheme within three months on their websites.
The PIL has claimed that in over 12 lakh government-run and aided schools across the country, children receive free, cooked lunch every day but "they are constantly exposed to the risk of food poisoning and related health hazards due to a lack of mid-day meal infrastructure and proper monitoring of the scheme".
(With inputs from agencies.)