Delhi HC: Supplier of rotten chana to schools under PM-POSHAN cannot be allowed to continue

The court was hearing a petition by an unnamed society against its debarment from supplying mid-day meal rations
File photo of Delhi High Court | (Pic: Express)
File photo of Delhi High Court | (Pic: Express)

The Delhi High Court has directed that an entity which provided rotten chana (chickpeas) to school children as part of dry ration kits under the Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM-POSHAN) scheme during the COVID pandemic cannot be permitted to continue to supply food items, as it brings a bad name to a noble cause initiated by the government.

The court was hearing a petition by an unnamed society against its debarment from supplying mid-day meal rations under the scheme as it had provided "sub-standard" food items to a government school in the national capital. Justice Subramonium Prasad said that the seriousness of the allegations could not be overlooked as children are the future of the country, as per a report by PTI.
"Supply of rotten chana or vanaspati cannot be condoned and persons who indulged in such activities cannot be permitted to continue to supply food items under the PM-POSHAN scheme. In fact, it is incidents like these which bring bad name to a noble cause that has been initiated by the government to encourage children to attend schools," the court said in a recent order. 

Also, since the debarment order passed by the Directorate of Education (DoE) did not specify a time limit, the court remanded the matter to the authorities to fix a timeline till which the petitioner shall be debarred from supplying mid-day meal.

What did the petitioner say?
The petitioner had supplied a batch of dry food materials to a school in 2022. It was subsequently found that the chana provided in the kit was rotten and vanaspati ghee had been given in place of refined oil. The petitioner assailed its consequent debarment on grounds that the chana packets were opened seven months after delivery and therefore, rotting could not be ruled out, adding that the concerned authorities had not specified that only refined oils were to be supplied and not vanaspati (vegetable oil).

In order to ensure that the nationwide shut down of schools due to COVID-19 did not detrimentally affect children, an interim policy measure was introduced under the PM-POSHAN scheme for the supply of dry ration kits to schools, the court observed further. "The standards set under the original scheme in relation to cooked meals ought to be read, to also apply to the ration kits," said the court, as it took "judicial notice of the fact that chana cannot rot in seven months time", as per PTI.

"In any event, there is no reason for this court to doubt the receipts given in the month of August 2022 which show the supply of chana to the school in question. It is not the case of the Petitioner that there is malice on the part of the Respondent or that the order of debarment is effected by mala fides or that the Petitioner has been debarred to favour any other NGO or company," the court said, adding, "Actions undertaken involve due impact on public good concerning the health and well-being of children and highest care ought to be taken in ensuring the effective discharge of duties."

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