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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2019

9 - A Case for Qualified Hope?

from Part III - Welfare Rights and the Environment


This chapter critically evaluates the impact of the Indian Supreme Court's interim orders in the Right to Food case, a Writ Petition seeking better implementation of the Midday Meal Program (the largest school nutritional program in the world). We cite significant and varied empirical and social science evidence demonstrating that the Program expanded significantly – from a quantitative as well as a qualitative standpoint – in the years immediately following the Court's orders. The harder question is whether the expansion in the Program was "caused" by the Court's intervention, or was largely the consequence of changed political circumstances. We argue that while the supportive political environment was undoubtedly a significant factor, the evidence available seems to indicate that the Court played an important role too. These orders helped in improving the scheme in certain specific respects, in bringing sustained media attention to the issue, in entrenching the Program against subsequent shifts in political priorities, and in providing a platform for the broader social movement to coalesce around. The experience suggests that there is room for "qualified hope" as to the ability of courts to help realize socio-economic rights, albeit in certain limited situations and in partnership with other actors.