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Kerala High Court Stays Lakshadweep’s Decision to Ban Meat in School Midday Meals and Shut Down Dairy Farms

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Photo Source: https://maritimeindia.org/lakshadweep-islands-from-fragility-to-stability/

Kerala High Court on Tuesday issued orders to stay Lakshadweep administration’s move to shut down the dairy farms run by the island administration and to remove meat from school midday meals, Live law reported

The stay orders were passed by a bench consisting of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly, based on a petition filed by Ajmal Ahmed, a lawyer and native of Kavaratti, Lakshadweep.

According to the Live Law report, the bench passed three orders that included continuation of dairy farm operations on the island, and the continuation of the existing midday meal plan that serves meat, fish, chicken and egg to school students until further orders. The court also directed the Lakshadweep administration to file a counter-affidavit regarding this matter. 

Praful Patel, the former BJP leader who took charge as the Administrator of Lakshadweep on December 5, 2020, has introduced a slew of administrative reforms in the Union Territory, including land acquisition policy as mentioned in the Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, implementation of a beef ban and Goonda Act, removal of meat from school meals and more. The people of the island condemned these reforms for being in direct violation of their rights and initiated an online campaign #SaveLakshadweep in May to protest against them.

On May 21, the island’s Department of Animal Husbandry passed the controversial order to shut down dairy farms on the island.

According to the petitioner, the order was passed with the malicious intention to change the food habits of the islanders. The petitioner also alleged that this was a prelude to the implementation of the regulation which seeks to ban the slaughter of cattle and consumption of beef and beef products, and that it was done also with the ulterior motive of promoting dairy products of a manufacturer from Gujarat. 

The petitioner further alleged that the removal of meat from midday meals was also done with the intent to change the food habits of the island’s children.

Calling the administrator’s decisions “arbitrary and discriminatory”, the petitioner said that they violate Article 14 of the constitution (the right to equality before law) as well as the right to privacy and right to life under Article 21. 

The bench ordered that the previously followed meal plan that includes meat shall continue in schools as they did not see any reason for a change of food items and the “non-vegetarian foods (fish, chicken, and egg) are essential for the growth of children.”

Regarding the shutdown of dairy farms, the bench said that they shall continue to function as the administration did not substantiate the argument that the dairy farms’ operation causes financial loss. 

Meanwhile, filmmaker Aisha Sultana, an active participant in the #SaveLakshadweep campaign, who arrived at Kavaratti on June 19 to appear before the police for interrogation regarding the sedition case filed against her, was accused by the administration of flouting home quarantine rules. According to a report in Times of India, Aisha was accused of moving out of the place of her stay, visiting public places, and mingling with people, violating the seven-day home quarantine rules. The Lakshadweep administration has reportedly warned her that strict action will be taken if she repeats this.