Supreme Court asks states, UTs to decide on reopening of anganwadi centres outside COVID containment zones
The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan directed states and UTs on reopening of anganwadi centres to provide nutritional support to children, lactating mothers and pregnant women.
The Supreme Court has directed states and Union territories to decide by January 31 on reopening of Anganwadi centres, which were closed in view of the pandemic and are no more under the COVID-19 containment zones.
The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan directed states and UTs to take a decision on reopening of Anganwadi centres to provide nutritional support to children, lactating mothers and pregnant women in accordance with the nutritional standard provided as per the National Food Security Act, 2013.
Observing that "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," the bench directed all states and UTs to 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".
It stated that it is the statutory obligation of the Centre and the states to "provide for nutritional support to pregnant women and lactating mothers, nutritional support to children and to take steps to identify and provide meals for children who suffer from malnutrition".
"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," the bench said.
The court also ordered the Women and Child Development Ministry to take a decision on reopening of Anganwadi centres by January 31.
"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 January 31, 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 January 31, 2021," the bench said in its verdict.
Anganwadi centres were closed following the issuance of the March 24, 2020 order by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for containment of COVID-19, the bench, also comprising Justice Subhash Reddy and Justice MR Shah, noted.
The top court, however, stated that "Anganwadi centres situated in the containment zone shall not be opened till the containment continues".