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FOOD ADULTERATION: HC puts lens on outside suppliers

5,May, 2016

‘Earn, but don’t destroy health of others’

Jammu and Kashmir High Court Wednesday directed the Government to provide full particulars of outside companies supplying food items to Jammu and Kashmir.

“Commissioner Food Safety shall provide full information and particulars of those food manufacturers, suppliers, persons, companies who originate from outside the state and supply food items to Jammu and Kashmir,” a division bench of Justices MuzaffarHussain Attar and Ali Muhammad Magrey said in its order.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation against food adulteration, the court directed the Food Commissioner to provide similar information about Jammu division.

The court directed Chief Secretary, Commissioner Secretary, Health and Food Commissioner Food Safety, Financial Commissioner/ Commissioner Secretary Finance & Planning, besides owners and MDs of food manufacturing and processing units to remain present on next hearing on May 13.

Expressing displeasure over non-appearance of these authorities in the court today, the bench on assurance of Advocate General, D C Raina accepted their applications exempting them from personal appearance for today.

“On next date of hearing all officers shall remain present before the court,” the bench said.

Extending time for owners of food manufacturing and processing units for filing affidavits indicating the manner in which they follow provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the court directed them to file the same by May 13.

On April 29, the companies had been directed by the court to file the affidavits.

Expressing displeasure over non implementation of Food Safety and Standards Act, the court observed, “Money power has taken control of everything now”.

“Few people have made empire out of food adulteration, they want quick buck and for it they can go (stoop) to any extent,” the court observed.

In response to the submissions by some counsels representing Kashmir-based food manufacturing units pleading that the government has double standards as no company supplying food stuff from outside J&K was convicted, the court said: “No one will be spared”.

“This is politics, don’t play it here. Everybody will be brought within the net of law,” the court observed.

While a counsel representing a local company pleaded that the Court cannot order closure of a business unit unless found culpable of wrong, the bench observed that in its earlier order it had used the expression “such units are liable to be closed”.

Observing that Dal lake may not live but issues relating to health of the people have to be taken seriously, the court said: “This is human life. Today it is we, tomorrow it will be our children”. The bench was apparently referring to remiss on part of government to implement its directions to save Dal lake.

“We will only implement statute in letter and spirit,” the bench said while warning the food manufacturing companies against destroying health of others.

“Earn, but don’t destroy health of others,” the court said.

Amicus Curie Bashir Ahmad Bashir (senior advocate) pleaded that DCs of all districts are supposed to monitor food items in keeping with the food safety act.”

In response to the state counsel’s argument that there are two state laboratories for carrying out food testing, the court said: “Shun the habit of subverting everything and stick to your earlier stand.”

“You have already stated before the court that the two existing laboratories are dysfunctional and outdated.”

The Advocate General, however, candidly admitted that the two laboratories were not functional to the extent of analyzing ingredients like pesticides.

“These laboratories with old equipment have to cope up with burden of 2016. Realize this, the government is in slumber,” the court observed.

Meanwhile, the court directed the authorities concerned to ensure publication of a notice in newspaper one each in Srinagar and Jammu informing the food manufacturers, suppliers, persons, companies to comply with the court direction dated April 27, 2016.

On April 27, the court had directed the owners of food processing units to file affidavits indicating that the food items they supply in the market are fit for human consumption.

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