Srinagar: Out of 1405 food samples lifted in Kashmir division by Food Safety officials in last year, 344 of them have been found “substandard/misbranded/unsafe,” the state government has informed the High Court.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Justices Hasnain Massodi and Dhiraj Singh Thakur observed that status report filed by the official functionaries concerned reveal that 3068 samples of food items have been lifted in Jammu and Kashmir from January 1 to December 31 2013.
While 1663 samples were lifted from Jammu, the remaining 1405 were lifted from Kashmir division. In Kashmir, the highest number of 351 samples was taken from Srinagar, while in Jammu district 683 samples were lifted and taken for analysis.
On going through status report, the bench observed said that it transpires that while in Jammu district, Food Safety Officers of Jammu Municipal Corporation have lifted 365 samples, Food Safety Officers of Food Safety Authority have lifted 318 samples.
Food Safety Officers of SMC have lifted 351 samples while Food Safety Officers of Food Safety Authority have not lifted even a single sample from Srinagar, the court observed.
Of 1663 samples in Jammu division, 287 have been found substandard/misbranded/unsafe. However, prosecution has been launched only regarding 200 samples.
“The action taken in respect of 87 samples is not explained. Again in most of the cases, accused have been let off with fine unmindful of the fact that the Act prescribes minimum punishment and punishment below minimum is not permissible under law,” the bench said.
In Kashmir division, out of 1405 samples, court observed, 344 samples have been found substandard/misbranded/unsafe. However, the bench said, prosecution has been launched only against 231 accused.
“In case of Kashmir division as well, most of the accused have been let off with small fine unmindful of mandate of law.”
Perusal of status report, court said, further indicates that in case of milk, most of the samples have been taken from small vendors/milkmen earning their livelihood by selling small quantity of milk either on shops or as street vendors.
The court said that in case of “key actors including M/S Khyber Agro Farm, Zum Zum, Snow Cap, Haleeb etc, who sell thousands of litres per day”, the number of samples lifted is less than five during whole year.
“Same is the position of other commodities and food items. This apart, number of samples lifted during 2013 is far less having regard to population of the state and volume of food items sold and consumed. The overall performance of the state therefore is dismal and disappointing,” the bench said.