The observation by the court in Uttar Pradesh came even as three lakh primary school teachers across Bihar boycotted midday meal duties today on the grounds they interfered with teaching work.
"The duty of teachers and principals of schools is to teach the students and not to supervise the cooking of meals," a division bench comprising Justice Shiva Kirti Singh and Justice Vikram Nath observed yesterday amid questions whether teaching staff at government schools should be saddled with the implementation of the scheme.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) filed by Meerut-based UP Pradhanacharya Parishad. The PIL had challenged an order of the District Inspector of Schools, dated June 19, whereby the earlier system of NGOs being entrusted with preparing mid-day meals was scrapped and principals were directed to get the food prepared in their respective schools under their personal supervision.
The petitioners had contended that the new system would interfere with the duties of teachers in Meerut and pointed out that NGOs were taking care of mid-day meals in a number of neighbouring districts.
Expressing surprise over the submission, the court said, "There must be uniformity across the state with regard to who shall be entrusted with a specific task like preparing mid-day meals".
Directing the state government to submit its policy with regard to mid-day meals by the next date of hearing on August 5, the court ordered that in Meerut, the previous system (of NGOs preparing mid-day meals) would continue until further orders. 23 children died in Bihar after taking poisoned food during a mid-day meal.
In Bihar, Primary teachers began boycott of mid-day meal duties as announced even as the state government said it would inform the Supreme Court, at the directive of which the scheme was being implemented.
Three lakh primary school teachers across the state kept away from the midday meal duties as per a decision by the Bihar Primary School Teachers Association on July 23, it's President Brajnandan Sharma said.
The flagship programme of the Union government is implemented in 70,200 schools in the state benefiting over 1.30 crore students. Sharma reiterated that the midday meal duties interfered with teaching duties and also brought a bad name to them because of corruption indulged in by others. Repeated requests made to the government to remove primary teachers from midday meal duty and to appoint an agency for the task, were ignored, he said.
The Association was forced to take the step and the boycott would continue till the government appointed an agency for the scheme, Sharma said.
Terming the decision by the primary teachers as irresponsible, Principal Secretary Human Resources Development Amarjeet Sinha said the situation was being evaluated and the Supreme Court would be informed about it.
"The scheme is being implemented on the directives of the Supreme Court ... how can you boycott duty suddenly?" Sinha told PTI. He said he had appealed to the primary teachers to call off their boycott for the welfare of the students.